Estate Planning isn’t just about tax savings or drafting trusts. It’s about getting to know a family, understanding their goals, organizing their assets, helping them through the tough times, being an available resource and looking over their shoulder throughout their lifetime. I don’t know about you, but a checklist helps me stay organized so here is your 2013 Estate Planning Checklist.
- Taxes – For those of you that plan on dying in 2013, I have some good news. Your estate probably won’t pay any Federal or Ohio estate taxes. For the rest of us, let’s stop and really think about how taxes work. The last time I checked, we have huge deficits which will require more taxes. Which group is least likely to complain about taxes? Dead people. If an attorney tells you not to plan because of the current laws, doesn’t that seem a little irresponsible and short-sighted?
Don’t put your head in the sand and ignore the fact Congress has changed the tax code over 4,000 times in the last decade. Changing it again in the future
is a certainty. Make sure your plan provides flexibility to ensure tax protection!
- Gifting Strategies – Believe it or not, some attorney’s idea of gifting advice is “just transfer your house to your kids”. Pretty sophisticated, huh? This type of lazy advice has caused a number of Ohio families to lose their home when their child got divorced or filed for bankruptcy in 2012. And don’t forget about Capital Gains Tax. We’ve seen many families create an unnecessary tax burden for their kids by listening to this “old-fashioned” way of counseling. Make sure you understand this tricky tax before you literally give your house away.
- Long-Term Care – Have you thought about long-term care? Does your plan address the sky-rocketing costs? Will you have assets available to support you and your spouse? Not sure? Well, you’re not alone. These are tough subjects to discuss, we get it. Simply ignoring these issues only make them worse. Get your legal and financial professionals involved before it becomes too late.
- Probate – We understand why many people only have a simple will. They’re inexpensive and address the immediate issues for young families. What gets overlooked is that attorney fees (not taxes) will be the largest cost to most Ohio residents’ estates. Why? All wills must go through probate. Most Ohio counties still permit attorneys to charge a share of the estate assets for probate fees. These amounts can range between 5 – 10%! So if your original will is tucked away in a
law office, ask yourself who really has the most to gain if it goes through probate?If you are in need of a probate attorney, don’t just choose one of the attorneys that coincidentally show up at every funeral. Insist on an attorney that charges by the hour for work actually completed. Times are changing and you no longer have to settle for paying a percentage of the estate for probate work.
Some “Probate” attorneys will surely continue to revert to shameless name calling and attempts to discredit estate planning techniques widely endorsed throughout Ohio. How else can the good ol’ boys maintain their monopoly? Not to mention, genuine estate planning takes more time, sophistication, training and effort from the attorneys and staff.
It’s 2013. You now have many options available when it comes to planning. The more informed and educated our community becomes with respect to estate planning, the more assets Ohioans will be able to keep and pass on to their families.
The bad news is that your will may still be trapped in an attorney’s fireproof safe just waiting for probate. The good news is you now have the knowledge to do something about it.
If you have any questions aboute estate planning, probate or elder law, be sure to contact AlerStallings today. Our firm has offices conveniently located throughout Ohio in Lima, Findlay, Bellefontaine, Columbus, Dublin and Mansfield.