Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning
Estate planning consists of planning for the distribution of your assets and property when you pass away. While an estate plan allows you to decide who gets what and when, it goes far beyond distributing your property through a will. Whether a person is wealthy or of modest means, everyone should have an estate plan as a part of their overall financial plan, especially since we cannot predict when accidents or illness may strike.
With a plan in place, you can rest easy knowing that your loved ones will enjoy the financial security that they deserve. Below, I have included a list of frequently asked questions about estate planning. Should you need more information, don’t hesitate to contact me directly for further assistance, I’m happy to help.
What is a will?
A will is a document that provides clear directions for how a person would like his or her probate assets to be distributed upon death. However, to be valid a will must conform to applicable state law and meet certain requirements.
Who is qualified to make a will?
Anyone over 18 years of age, of sound mind, and not under undue influence can create a will.
How is a valid will made?
A will must be written and signed and it must be witnessed in a specific manner as provided by law by at least two people who have no interest in the will. The best way to write a valid will is to have an attorney supervise the signing.
How do I know if I need a will?
Anyone who owns any real or personal property should have a will regardless of the value of their property because the purpose of a will is to have your property distributed the way you want it. For example, perhaps you want your WWII collection to go to a museum and your art collection to go to your eldest daughter. Keep in mind too that over the years your estate may grow in value as you pay off mortgages, and stocks or other investments appreciate.
Can a will give me complete power over my property?
Yes and no. Ohio law gives a surviving spouse and minor children certain rights over property that cannot be overridden by a will. It’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about these rights.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will your property will be divided in accordance with Ohio’s intestate succession laws, which are the laws that take effect when someone dies without a will. If you don’t make a will, you have no control over who receives your probate property, nor can you choose who will administer your estate when you’re gone.
What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised proceeding where a will is proven; debts, claims and taxes are paid; and the remaining assets and property are then distributed among the beneficiaries. Only “probate-assets” are subject to probate proceedings.
What are probate assets?
Probate assets are ones held only in the decedent’s name. Nonprobate property is not a part of a probate proceeding and this includes property held with another as joint tenants with right of survivorship, property held in a trust account, payable on death accounts, and insurance and retirement accounts with a named beneficiary.
What is a revocable trust?
A revocable trust or living trust is one where the trustmaker can change or amend it throughout their lifetime. The trustmaker can also be the trustee during his or her life and name a successor trustee to take over upon death. A revocable trust can be funded with any property such as checking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, a home, stocks and bonds, and other real estate.