By Michael A. Parente
The holiday season is upon us and that means time with friends and family, holiday traditions, and braving the stores for all of your holiday gifting. But have you thought about the most important gift, the one that includes the culmination of a lifetime of hard work? An up-to-date Last Will and Testament or Living Trust should be on your list this holiday season. If you do not have one, it will be the court, not you, who determines how and to whom your assets are passed.
YOUR ASSETS, YOUR WISHES
These are your assets, and how they are passed should reflect your wishes. The State of Ohio has very specific laws regarding distribution of assets and property when someone dies without a will or trust. Regardless of the size or complexity of your estate, you should be the one who decides how your assets are passed. However, if you die without a will or trust, a Probate Court will be in charge of passing your assets according to state law. Not only are these proceedings costly and time consuming, but the results may be in direct contrast with your wishes.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN
There are numerous situations and scenarios that can lead to unintended results if an individual dies without the proper estate planning documents. The following are a few of the many issues that may arise if you die without a will or trust:
Executor. Odds are you would feel more confortable with certain individuals handling your estate than others. The executor is the person you trust to handle your estate according to your wishes. If you do not have a will or trust, the court will appoint an Administrator who will be in charge of handling your estate and is entitled to receive a fee paid from your estate.
Distribution Scheme. Do you want everything to go to a spouse? Will your children inherit equally? Are there stepchildren or grandchildren in the picture? These are all questions that need to be addressed in your will or trust, otherwise your assets may be divided amongst unintended beneficiaries.
Blended Family. Is your spouse the natural parent of ALL of your children? If not, the State of Ohio has specific rules on the way your assets are allocated. This allocation may be in direct contrast to your wishes and leave your surviving spouse without sufficient assets.
For example, if your spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent of any of your children they are entitled to $20,000 and 1/3 of your estate (the amount is 1/2 if there is only one child). If your spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of some, but not all of your children they are entitled to $60,000 and 2/3 of your estate. Depending on your situation this may either be too much or not enough for your surviving loved ones.
Other Beneficiaries. Do you wish to provide for people outside of your immediate family? Maybe you would like to make a charitable donation? Without a will or trust providing for these situations, your wishes may never be realized.
Special Needs. Are any of your natural heirs deceased? What if there are heirs with disabilities - are their needs adequately planned for? Are there prized possessions that you would like to designate to specific individuals? Without proper planning these situations may never be carried out according to your wishes.
These are just a few examples of situations that may cause issues in the administration of your estate.
WHAT YOU ARE GIVING UP
Control. Without the proper estate planning documents you are relinquishing control of your assets to the court. The court will be in charge of supervising your estate and may appoint and approve things that would be in direct contrast with your wishes.
Protection. Did you know that there are ways to protect your assets from the claims of creditors and keep unwanted heirs from sharing in your estate? With a little bit of planning you can protect your assets from those who may seek a share of your estate.
Tax Savings. Proper estate planning documents can ensure that your assets are not squandered by avoidable and unintended negative tax consequences
Estate Savings. Proper estate planning documents can save your estate both time and money. By spelling out your exact wishes you can save your estate thousands in attorney fees and months of expensive administration.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact Fanger and Associates LLC today for a complimentary consultation. The Attorneys at Fanger and Associates are here to guide you through the estate planning process and tailor an estate plan to ensure your wishes are realized. Everyone’s situation and wishes are unique, and that is why it is important that you have an estate plan crafted to your specific desires.
Michael A. Parente is the attorney in our firm that focuses on Estate Planning and Trust issues. He is here to answer any of your questions and to make certain that all of your valuable wishes are carried out according to your specific plans with the utmost care. You can contact Mr. Parente by calling (440) 605-9641. Don’t forget to give the most important gift this holiday season.