No one likes thinking about estate planning and planning for the end of their life. It’s uncomfortable to think about our own mortality and being gone while the rest of our family lives on. Nonetheless, considering your options and planning accordingly is important for everyone and should be done sooner rather than later—before it’s too late.
A will is a basic set of instructions that states your wishes for who will be in charge of your assets after you’re gone and who will receive your money (and how much of it).
Oftentimes people think that they don’t need a will, or an estate plan, because they don’t have a lot of assets or very much money to leave to their family. But even if you don’t have much in the way of material wealth, it is important to have a will and an estate plan.
In fact, you already have an estate plan—you just may not know it. The state of Ohio, if you do not have any written instructions for your estate, plans for you. State law (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2105.06) in Ohio will determine which person receives your money and assets—and how much—as well as who will become the guardian of young children you may have. Typically, the state will give everything to your surviving spouse, and if the spouse is not surviving, everything will go to your children. If there is no family surviving, including your parents or next of kin, everything in your estate will go to the state of Ohio.
What the state of Ohio determines for you may not be what you actually want for your estate and your family. You might want to leave money or assets to relatives outside your immediate family or to a worthy charity. If you have investments, you might want to name someone to manage them. If you have a blended family, you might want to leave a certain amount to each part of your family.
A will allows you to express your wishes so that your legacy is properly passed on and your family and assets will be properly cared for after you’re gone.
For many folks, a will is not sophisticated enough for their needs. For example, if a person faces federal estate taxes, holds real estate in more than one county, has beneficiaries with special needs, or wishes to avoid the fees, delay, and publicity of probate, then a living trust may be appropriate … especially if those “special needs” beneficiaries face a divorce, bankruptcy, gambling, or substance abuse problem. Even if the living trust is the right choice, a will is necessary to make sure all assets end up in the living trust.