Estate Planning

Establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to provide for and protect yourself and your loved ones.  Proper estate planning can minimize the expense, delay and frustration often experienced by someone trying to manage another person's affairs when that person passes away or becomes disabled.
Providing for Incapacity
Without proper documents in place, in order for others to be able to manage your finances if you become incapacitated, a guardianship through the Probate Court would be required. This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful and the person selected by the Court may not be the person you would have chosen. They will be required to file annual accountings and other reports with the Court.   With the right documents in place, your family or other person you choose would be able to manage your financial affairs without resorting to the Court and without the expenses and delays that come with it.
In addition to planning for financial management of  your affairs during incapacity, you should establish a plan for your medical care.  Ohio law allows you to appoint someone (a family member, close friend, etc.) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are ever unable to make those decisions for yourself.  You do this by signing a durable power of attorney for health care.  You may also want to consider a living will which specifies your preferences for medical treatment if you should become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

Avoiding Probate
If you choose to use your will to pass your assets to your beneficiaries at your death, the administration takes place through the local probate court.  The probate process is open to the public and can be expensive and  time-consuming.   There can be delays in gaining access to financial accounts, which can make a difficult situation even more stressful, especially for your spouse and children.    With proper planning, your assets can pass to your loved ones in a way that is private, more efficient, less costly and without the probate court.
Providing for Minor Children
If you have young children,  you may want to consider an estate plan that would allow your spouse to devote more attention to your children without the burden of work obligations, or that provides your spouse with financial guidance, if needed.  You should also consider who would care for your children if both you and your spouse were gone. With a well-drafted estate plan, you select the person who would manage your assets for your young children and you select  a guardian who would be responsible for raising your children, who may or may not be the same person.  In fact, you may want to  designate different persons to fill those roles to maintain a system of checks and balances.  It is imoprtant to select a guardian who understands and shares your beliefs and values.
You should also carefully consider whether you’d like your beneficiaries to receive your assets directly, or whether you’d prefer to have the assets placed in trust with distributions when the children attain certain ages or achieve certain milestones, such as graduating from college or getting married.   If children receive substantial assets before they are mature enough to handle them properly,  the results can be disastrous. 

Planning for Death Taxes
Ohio no longer imposes an estate tax.  However, there is a federal estate tax for larger estate.  Other states have their own separate estate taxes that you may need to be aware of. There are effective strategies that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate these taxes, but proper planning is essential.
Charitable Bequests – Planned Giving
If you want to leave a bequest to a charitable organization or cause, your estate plan can provide for such organizations in a variety of ways, either during your lifetime or at your death.  A chaitable bequest can also be structured to let you receive a stream of income for life, earn a higher investment yield, or reduce your capital gains or estate taxes, but proper planning is essential.
Consult a qualified estate planning attorney to review your family and financial situation, your goals and the various options available to you.   Once your estate plan is in place, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have provided for yourself and your family.


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Dell Burtis Law is located in Tiffin, Ohio and assists clients throughout Seneca, Sandusky, Huron, Crawford, Wyandot, Hancock and Wood County, Ohio, with legal matters relating to Estate Planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney), Elder Law (medicaid and nursing home planning), Business Law (formation, succession and purchases/sales) and Real Estate (titles, closings, agreements and easements).