Having an estate plan ensures that your final wishes will be carried through and protects your family from the challenges that inevitably arise when someone falls ill or dies without a plan in place.
While we all find it difficult to find time to think about the future, what happens to your family when you die or become incapacitated is not something to be left to chance or default law. Everyone needs an estate plan, and unique circumstances will often require a detailed and carefully structured plan. But, this does not mean that your estate plan needs to be complicated or expensive. For most people, it is a straightforward process that can be completed quickly with the help of an experienced attorney. It will provide flexibility to make updates as your personal, and financial circumstances change over time.
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Whether used alone or in combination with a trust, a last will and testament is part of almost all estate plans. Wills serve a variety of different purposes; for some people, a properly drafted will can be all the estate plan they need.
For high net-worth individuals, asset protection is a critical component of the estate planning strategy. Trusts, annuities, insurance, and corporations are just some of the tools that are available for mitigating risk in the event of a malpractice claim or other lawsuit resulting in personal liability.
For those who are going through or who have been through a divorce, estate planning takes on heightened importance. Ohio law gives certain rights to spouses, and not all of these rights terminate automatically upon divorce. Anyone preparing for a divorce should reconsider their estate plan. Anyone who has been divorced should revisit their estate plan as soon as possible.
If you have a child or elderly family member with special needs, addressing those needs should be a central focus of your estate plan. There are a number of different ways to provide for loved ones’ long-term financial needs, and estate planning tools like the Qualified Income Trust (aka, Miller Trust) and Special Needs Trust allow individuals to retain their government benefit eligibility.
For individuals seeking to include charitable gifts in their estate plans, we can integrate your goal for maximum philanthropic and tax benefits.
What if a person becomes incapacitated or dies without an estate plan?
When a person dies without an estate plan in Ohio, his or her entire estate will be distributed through the probate process. In addition, because there is no documentation to guide the distribution of estate assets, the assets must be distributed according to Ohio’s “intestate succession” laws, which direct which of your family members you’re your assets and money. These laws rarely reflect anyone’s true final wishes, and this is one of the primary reasons everyone should at least have a basic estate plan
What types of issues are covered in a Last Will and Testament?
While a last will and testament can govern the distribution of all or a portion of your assets after death, this is by no means the only function of a last will and testament. In Ohio, wills are also used to:
- Name an executor
- Name guardians for minor children
- Provide funeral & burial instructions
- Provide the ability for heirs to disclaim their inheritance rights for tax purposes
- Provide the ability for your executor to make tax elections
What the special considerations involved in the estate planning process?
Personal Injury Planning – If you suffer a catastrophic injury in an accident, your estate plan can provide for your medical and financial needs as well.
Charitable Giving – There are special estate planning tools that allow those with philanthropic interests to make tax-advantageous charitable donations while also providing for their families.
Planning for Your Disability – Who will make medical on your behalf if you become incapacitated? Who will handle your bills and finances if you become disabled? These are important questions that can be addressed in your estate plan.
If I am going through a divorce, is my spouse entitled to a share of my estate?
Maybe. We strongly recommend that anyone pursuing a divorce or dissolution reconsider the estate plan as soon as possible. Ohio law will protect some assets from your ex-spouse if you get divorced, but not all of them. You must take steps to remove your ex-spouse from your estate plan.
Could a pending lawsuit impact my estate plan?
Yes. When it comes to the distribution of your property, your estate plan only governs the assets that you own at the time of death. If you get sued, you may have to satisfy the judgment with assets that would have otherwise gone to your heirs or beneficiaries. Implementing an effective asset protection strategy may help achieve a desirable outcome.
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