Ohio Wills & Estate Toolkit

Pro Seniors’ Legal Toolkits help low-income Ohioans handle their legal problems without a lawyer.  There are Do-It-Yourself tools to create legal forms as well as Articles and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to explain the legal details.  This website does not give legal advice and is not a substitute for seeing a lawyer.  If you use this Legal Toolkit, let us know if it helped you and how we can improve this site by completing this Survey Form.

This toolkit explains how to create your own Simple Will and answers questions about how it works and what to do with it after you sign it.  Before you create your Will, read the Articles for general information and the FAQs for answers to specific questions.  Then, to create your own Simple Will, use the Forms link to create your personalized Will.

If you still have questions about your Simple Will, and you are a Ohio resident over the age of 60, then please call Pro Seniors Legal Helpline at 513.345.4160 or 1.800.488.6070.  There you can schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation with a Helpline attorney to answer your questions.


All form links can be found in the under the Forms heading on the sidebar of this page.  Forms under the Wills & Estate Toolkit include:

  • Do-It-Yourself: Simple Will Interview – Answer questions to make your own Will.
  • Real Estate Transfer on Death Forms and Examples


Helpful articles can be found on the sidebar, located on the right side of the page.  Articles include Pro Senior’s pamphlets as well as other published documents that can help you to understand the Wills and estates more fully.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Transfer on Death (TOD) or Payable on Death Designation?

A Transfer on Death Designation is one of many methods that lets a beneficiary receive assets at the time of a person’s death without going through the probate court.  TODs can be applied to real estate, vehicles, and other property as well.

Payable on Death is similar to a TOD, but it applies to a financial account such as a checking account, savings account, or money market.

What is a Transfer on Death for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)?

A transfer of Death Deed for the BMV allows the car owner to name a beneficiary, on the certificate of registration, to inherit a vehicle upon the car owner’s death.  To name a transfer on death beneficiary for a car, you must fill out the paperwork at the Ohio BMV.  https://www.bmv.ohio.gov/titles-transfer-death.aspx

What paperwork do I need to name someone a TOD beneficiary for my vehicle?

You will need to fill out an Affidavit for Designation of Beneficiary or Beneficiaries by the Sole Owner for a Motor Vehicle, Watercraft, or Outboard Motor Certificate of Title. https://s3.amazonaws.com/odx-odps-content/links/bmv3811.pdf

I am a TOD beneficiary for a vehicle, and the owner has died. What do I do now?

You will need to go to the local BMV and switch the title of the car into your name. You will need to bring the original Ohio title to the car, a certified copy of the death certificate of the owner, an Application for Certificate of Title, a government issues driver license or identification care, and the payment for title fees.  https://www.bmv.ohio.gov/titles-transfer-death.aspx

Can you use a TOD to transfer a house or other real property?

Yes.  A Transfer-On-Death Designation Affidavit allows the owner of Ohio real estate to designate one or more beneficiaries of the property. When the owner dies, the property will transfer to the beneficiaries. This will avoid having to go through the probate court.

How is a Payable on Death Account different from a Transfer on Death Designation?

A Payable-on-death bank accounts allows you to name a person to inherit the money in your bank account at the time of your death.  If you want to name a beneficiary for your bank account, go to the bank that holds your account, and ask for the Payable on Death form that is provided by your bank. As long as you are alive, the person you named to inherit the money in a payable-on-death account has no rights to it. You can spend the money, name a different beneficiary, or close the account. This does not have to go through the probate court. Once you die, a POD beneficiary needs to do to claim the money is show the bank a certified copy of the death certificate and proof of his or her identity.

What is a Transfer with Rights of Survivorship (JWROS)?

When two or more people have a joint tenancy in a property, and one of the joint tenants dies, the ownership interest is split between the remaining tenants. When the owner does, the property will pass to the surviving owners. Eventually, when all but the final joint tenant dies, the last living person with an ownership interest will have all the rights to the property.

I have joint ownership of a car and the other party has died. What do I do?

If one party is deceased, the surviving party applies for the certificate of title and the title is issued in the survivor’s name showing “acquired by right of survivorship.” If one party is deceased, the signature of an executor or an administrator is required. You will need to bring to the BMV an original Ohio title to the car, a certified copy of the death certificate of the owner, a government issues driver license or identification care, and the payment for title fees. https://www.bmv.ohio.gov/titles-transfer-death.aspx

Here is the schedule of payment for title fees.

What if I have a joint bank account with my spouse and I die first?

If you have a joint account with your spouse, the money from the bank account will go directly to your spouse.  If you have named a payable on death beneficiary for your account it will take effect only after your spouse dies.

How do I open a probate estate administration?

There are different types of estate administration available.  There is a full administration, a release from administration, and a summary release from administration.  For an full administration, the basic steps include:

  • Application for authority to admit the Will to probate, if one exists, and for authority to administer the estate;
  • Appointment of a fiduciary;
  • Gathering assets and obtaining appraisals as required;
  • Filing an Inventory in a timely manner;
  • Determining debts, the sufficiency of assets and the payment of creditors;
  • Timely filing of income tax returns, the Ohio Estate Tax return and the payment of taxes, if any;
  • Distribution of assets to beneficiaries;
  • Closing the estate by timely filing a final account or certificate of termination.

What is a Release of Administration?

A Release from Administration is allowed when the assets to be transferred of the deceased’s estate is below court set limits. If the probate estate consists of property of a gross value of $35,000 or less, the estate may be released from administration. If the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary, and the probate estate consists of property of a gross value of $100,000 or less, the estate may be released from administration. This type of administration does not require the filing of an inventory or a final account. This makes the probate procedure shorter and less expensive.

What is a Summary Release of Administration?

A Summary Release from Administration is even less complicated than a Release from Administration.  This is available if the estate assets do not exceed $45,000, and the applicant is the decedent’s surviving spouse, who has paid the funeral bill or is obligated to do so, and who is also entitled to the entire allowance for support. This is also available where the applicant is not the surviving spouse, has paid or is obligated in writing to pay the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, and the value of the estate assets is the lesser of $5,000 or the amount of the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses.

How do I start a Summary Release of Administration?

First, you must file with the probate court an application for Summary Release from Administration, as well as the indicated forms in Summary Release from Administration Packet. You must have with you at the time of filing: The decedent’s will, if there is one. A Certified copy of the death certificate, a receipt of a paid funeral bill, Title(s) of automobile(s), bank account numbers, and stock certificate numbers in the estate and the appropriate court fees.