Most Frequently Asked Estate Planning Questions – Part 1

Clients often are overwhelmed with the amount of information available to them in regards to estate planning. While they try to piece together the entire plan, they often leave out some basic questions. Here are answers to some of the most common estate planning and probate process questions.

What is included in my estate?

Your estate consists of all the assets you possess at the time of your death. Those assets can include real estate, personal property, securities, cash, interest in businesses, retirement, IRA accounts and life insurances policies.

Who needs an estate plan?

The short answer is everyone. If you own any assets, have children or are just going away for college, there is some form of an estate plan that you should have. Speaking with an attorney can help you figure out what documents you might need and how to prepare them.

Is probate only for those with a large estate?

No. Most states, including Ohio, have adopted laws that allow for two different types of estate procedures. Those estates with smaller amount of assets will have a simplified procedure, lower costs, and should reduce time delays, however, certain assets will still need to go through the probate process in order for ownership to be transferred to the new owner.

What is a Trust?

It is an estate planning tool that allows for your assets to be managed and distributed to your beneficiaries without the need of probate. It is a legal document that names an individual or an entity who will control your assets after your death and will therefore, distribute or manage assets for those entitled to them, according to the terms of the trust.

If I have a trust, do I still need a last will and testament?

Yes. This will allow you to capture all of your assets, even those that were not transferred into the trust. A will created with a conjunction with a trust is called a pour-over will. It states that any other assets that belong to you on your date of death, should be transferred to your trust, and be distributed accordingly, if possible. Discuss with your attorney all of your assets to ensure that they are all accounted for as some assets that are not in your trust, that do not have beneficiary designations or are not jointly titled with another individual may still be subject to probate.

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