Springfield, Ohio, the county seat of Clark County, is located in Southwestern Ohio, about 25 mile
s northeast of Dayton. With a population of about 62,000, Springfield was chosen in 2004 as an “All-American City.” Springfield was founded by a former Kentucky teamster, James Demint, in 1801, and later, in the mid-to-late 19th century, a patent attorney in Springfield for the Wright Brothers wrote the patent which covered the invention of the airplane. For a decade, between 1916 and 1926, Springfield was home to ten automobile companies, and International Harvester, a farm machinery manufacturer which became a leading local industry in Springfield. Like others across the United States, Springfield, Ohio residents should consider estate planning no matter their age or station in life.
Aren’t Estate Plans Just for the Wealthy?
Many people are guilty of thinking that only those with lots of money need an estate plan. This is simply not true, and by foregoing an estate plan which is tailored to you and your specific situation you may inadvertently create serious problems for those you leave behind. There are particular reasons why the state of Ohio is one of the better states for those who want to engage in estate planning, most especially the fact that Ohio no longer has an estate tax—and never had a gift tax. As of January 1, 2013, Ohio joined with thirty other states which have no inheritance or estate tax. Prior to this, any time the net value of the estate was more than $338,000 a significant final tax was required from the estate. When this estate tax was in place, only the smallest estates, surviving spouses and charities were exempt from the tax.
Another reason Ohio is a good state for estate planners is that the state’s relatively new Power of Attorney Statute more fully protects those who are disabled, as well as the elderly. Agents for Powers of Attorney must specifically be given abilities in the document, such as the ability to amend or terminate a trust, the ability to make a gift or change rights of survivorship, the ability to change beneficiary designations or delegate authority, or the ability to waive the right to be a beneficiary of a joint or survivor designation or exercise specific fiduciary powers. The statute also gives “interested parties” the right to engage in a court-supervised inquiry of the Agent’s activities—before the assets are all gone.
In the area of trusts, Ohio has Decanting Statutes in place which allow those with a less-than-optimal Trust in place to transfer assets to a more favorable trust. Ohio is one of only 14 states with this type of statute. Finally, the state of Ohio has what is known as an irrevocable Legacy Trust, which utilizes a qualified Ohio Trustee. This means the trust assets are exempt from the claims of creditors (except for child support and spousal support obligations), although the trust creator is allowed to retain certain rights to the principal and interest associated with the trust. The grantor of the trust is also allowed to remove and replace a trustee.
Why Is Estate Planning So Important?
As the old adage goes, “you can’t take it with you.” This means that any assets or properties you own cannot go with you when you die, therefore you need to make certain those assets will go to your loved ones, whether that is a child, another relative, a friend, or a charity. Absent a will or trust, the Ohio state probate courts will decide who will receive your assets, and those decisions might include people you do not want to inherit from you. Particularly if you have minor children, you will want to have a will in place which designates a guardian for those children should you become incapacitated or die. The following are documents you should consider for your Springfield, Ohio estate plan:
- An Ohio Health Care Power of Attorney—A Health Care Power of Attorney gives a trusted individual the legal authority to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become seriously ill or incapacitated. As an example, your Health Care Power of Attorney could specify that you do not want heroic life-saving procedures. If your physician objected to that specification, the person designated by you can instigate a transfer to another doctor who will respect your wishes. Under Ohio law, you must be an adult, be of sound mind, and must sign and date the Durable Power of Attorney in front of a notary public.
- An Ohio Will—A will in the state of Ohio can only be implemented by a person who is 18 or older and is of sound mind. The will must either be handwritten or typewritten and requires the signatures of two witnesses, neither of which can have an interest in the will—in other words, the witnesses cannot benefit from the terms of the will. A will must go through Ohio probate, which can sometimes be a lengthy and expensive process. A will is also a matter of public record once probate has begun, which means any interested person can find out the terms of the will. A will is essential, however for those with minor children, and even if you have a living trust in place, your Springfield, Ohio estate planning attorney may advise you to have a “pour-over” will which effectively “captures” any assets you may have inadvertently left out of the trust. If you have a will, you will likely have named an executor of the will—a trusted person who will carry out your wishes under Ohio law. If you do not have a will, or you did not name an executor in your will, the state will choose an executor and may decide how to distribute your assets.
- An Ohio Living Trust—A living trust, although initially more expensive than a will, has a number of benefits when compared to a will. A living trust allows you to place all your assets in a trust, yet continue to make decisions about those assets, and use them as you see fit, during your lifetime. A living trust names a person who will carry out your wishes upon your death, and who will also carry out your wishes should you become very ill or incapacitated. A living trust is not a public document, as it does not have to go through probate, and when prepared by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, can save your heirs time and money following your death.
If you are ready to engage in estate planning, speaking to an experienced Lovett & House estate planning attorney can ensure your estate plan is properly prepared and is fully suited to your life and your wishes. Our attorneys have years of experience helping Springfield, Ohio residents plan for the future of their loved ones. We will answer your questions and ensure your estate plan is the right plan for you. Contact Lovett & House today for a comprehensive evaluation.