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Three Estate Planning Tips for Families

February 17, 2016

Contrary to popular thought, estate planning is not only for the rich or the retired. Many of us are concerned with the day-to-day joys and trials of life, but a day will come when we pass on and leave our loved ones behind. A family may suddenly find themselves facing estate planning issues with little to no warning. In those cases, a carefully, thought-out estate plan could mean all the difference in the world to a spouse or children. The following three tips will help a family prepare for worst case scenarios.

  1. Memorialize your last wishes in writing

It is a myth that when you pass away, the state will receive all of your assets. If a person dies without a will, however, Ohio law determines who receives your assets. These rules are straightforward and unforgiving. A will provides you with flexibility as to how you want your assets to be divided. This flexibility extends to your favorite charity, spouse, children, and extended family. With a will, you can bequest specific items to specific people or organizations. Your fishing gear can go to Sister Susie and your artwork can go to Caring Charity. The only limitations to this giving is in the document itself. Make sure that your will is reviewed by a local attorney, whether written by you or gathered from online materials, because Ohio has specific requirements as to what constitutes a legal will. A general rule of thumb is to update your will every five years.

  1. Protect your children

In “The Greatest Love of All”, the late Witney Houston sang, “I believe that children are our future.” We, as parents, also believe our children are our future and want the best for them. Our love and protection should know no bounds. If you or your spouse pass away in a terrible accident, who will now care for your children? What happens to all of your property? Wills and trusts may offer protections to your children and your assets. Wills may provide for guardianship for your children and trusts may provide protection of assets to be used by minor or adult children. When determining who would be a good guardian for your child upon your passing, be sure to consider these things:

  • The physical location;

  • Lifestyle;

  • Religious, moral, or political beliefs;

  • Financial situation; and

  • Desire of a person to serve as guardian.

A trust may be established from your assets to provide for your children if you and your spouse pass away suddenly. This trust can be tailored to yours and your children’s specific needs. It may provide for living expenses while a minor, or education expenses during adulthood.

  1. Protect your financial and bodily well-being

When you hear about estate planning, you probably think of wills or trusts. These documents can undoubtedly express your last wishes and offer financially sounds ways to distribute your assets, but they do not protect you if you ever become physically or mentally unable to make crucial medical and financial decisions. Documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Living Will, and a Durable Power of Attorney, give your spouse or children the legal power to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become mentally or physically incapacitated.

 

Please seek professional assistance with any questions or specific situations.

 

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