What is Estate Planning & Do I Need it?

by Gregory Aler

So what is Estate Planning? Well, let’s start off by stating what it is not. It’s not just about taxes. It’s not just for the rich. It’s not just about fancy trust documents. It’s not about savings (although a nice benefit). For the majority of Ohioans, estate planning boils down to guidance, protection, peace of mind, organization and most importantly, support for your friends and loved ones.

To better illustrate the importance of effective estate planning, outlined below are many of the benefits that get overlooked when families are trying to decide how to plan for their future:

Guidance – This component is probably the most overlooked benefit of estate planning. Proactive steps require sitting down and assigning responsibilities and making the tough decisions ahead of time. Problems often arise when one person handles all the finances, farm operations, bills, insurance, etc. and then unexpectedly passes away. Now the surviving spouse or child(ren) are in a tough position trying to figure out what to do next. This can be an extremely overwhelming and stressful burden to pass onto your spouse or children during an already difficult time. Developing a road map which outlines the responsible agents and the eventual distributions are integral to successful planning.

Protection – Estate protection is a big part of the puzzle. Protection against probate fees. Protection against taxes. Protection against Long-Term Care costs. Most Ohioans don’t realize that the will tucked away at their attorney’s office doesn’t protect them from any of these things. Understanding the risks to your estate and how to avoid them is vital to creating your customized plan.

Peace of Mind – There is something to be said about finishing the last task on your never ending to-do list. We understand estate planning is susceptible to procrastination. However, most individuals acknowledge the relief of having the ‘weight lifted off their shoulders’ once their intentions and wishes have been memorialized.

Organization – One of the largest administrative tasks is assembling and organizing a lifetime of paperwork and assets. The last thing you want is to have a dozen shoeboxes worth of tax returns, insurance and investment statements from the last twenty years for your spouse or kids to have to sort out. Organization and consolidation of assets is a very important exercise that often times is overlooked.

Support – Estate planning doesn’t end when the powers of attorney, wills and trusts are executed. Your plan requires diligent attention and updating throughout your lifetime. A good estate planning attorney should be available to answer your questions and step in when life’s milestones occur (purchasing out-of-state property, entering a nursing home, or the passing of a loved one).

Estate planning is not just for the top 1% but instead for 100% of the population. As my old law professor used to say, estate planning comes down to really two words: Good Manners. You don’t want to leave your spouse or family with the burden of having to figure out a lifetime of assets on their own without any help or direction. While some estate plans are more complicated than others, it is safe to say that every adult still needs a plan.

If you want to learn more about how to start planning for your family’s future please feel free to contact an attorney at AlerStallings for a free consultation – 1-877-912-3464.

“A Lifetime Accumulating Wealth, An Afternoon Preserving It.”