Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process where you develop a plan to transfer property to others at death and how to handle your affairs when you don't have the capacity to act for yourself. Estate planning typically involves a few key documents—a last will and testament, a trust (maybe), a durable general power of attorney, and advanced directives.

  • A Last Will and Testament is a set of instructions on how you want to transfer your property that remains titled in your name at death to others. Click here to learn more.
  • A Trust is a contract between you and another person to handle property for a specific purpose for a length of time. Click here to learn more.
  • A Durable General Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to delegate to your "agent" the ability to handle your legal and financial affairs. Click here to learn more.
  • Advanced Directives in Ohio have two documents—a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will. These documents allow you to delegate healthcare decision-making when you are unable to speak for yourself, including end-of-life decisions making. Click here to learn more.
  • Beneficiary Designations are contractual documents that bind a financial institution or other property registrar to transfer title to one or more persons you designate at your death. Click here to learn more.

Which documents do I really need?

How you intend to dispose of your property at death will generally guide the design of your estate plan, including whether a trust is necessary. We begin with having you think about what you want to have happen to your property at death. There are three major types of property to consider: (1) “tangible personal property” (i.e., furniture, clothing, automobiles, and personal effects, etc.); (2) “intangible personal property” (i.e., bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stock certificates, etc.); and (3) “real property” (i.e., homes, land, and other interests in real estate). Each one of these types of properties are treated a little differently under the law. And clients often want to do different things with these types of properties at death. Depending on your specific goals, one or more of the documents discussed above might be necessary.

When do I need to change my estate plan?

Your estate plan does have a shelf life. And that is as long as everyone involved in your estate plan remains the same. If anything changes for you or anyone involved in your plan, it may be out of date. If there’s anything that strongly tugs at your emotions, you should think about your estate plan—think births, deaths, illnesses, disabilities, marriages, divorces, bankruptcies, creditor issues, etc.

Can I leave everything to my one son and tell him who should receive my property?

Yes, you can—but it's not usually a good idea. Leaving assets to Johnny and trusting him share the estate with his sister and two brothers seems like a simple way to handle things. But it can be a recipe for problems. If you leave your property to Johnny, it's his under the law. He has no legal obligation to share it with anyone. He may be under a "moral" obligation; but no one can enforce those moral obligations to compel Johnny to do what he promised you. But could Johnny do the right thing? Yes—but no one can hold him accountable. It's a risk.