The staff of Boomerang thank the Community Education Department at the Ohio State Treasurer's Office for contributing this article.
Life presents a long list of money choices we must make. There are large and small choices around every corner. Sometimes it can be something as simple as budgeting for a new purchase, but there are certain times when the decisions we make have long lasting implications. Estate planning is not a fun thing to think about or discuss, but it very well may be the most important money choice you can make. Proper estate planning helps prepare you and your family for the inevitable, which should give you peace of mind.
An estate plan helps to preserve the value of your financial assets, minimize estate expenses and designate the distribution of your assets upon your death. For some, the writing of a will can prevent most potential estate problems. Other situations may require a more comprehensive plan, including trusts or gifts prior to death to protect young heirs or heirs who are not capable of handling their own affairs.
There are three general areas of estate planning to keep in mind: wills, trusts and probate.
- A will is a legal document that dictates how your estate is to be settled after you die. In Ohio, any person over the age of 18 and "of sound mind and memory, not under restraint" can execute a will. A will must be handwritten or typed; "verbal" wills have no legal standing. Your will can provide for the financial support and care of your heirs, distribute your assets according to your wishes to relatives or non-relatives, provide charitable distributions, determine the executor of your estate, reduce the cost of your estate and also appoint guardians of minor children.
- A trust is a legal contract in which a trustee holds assets transferred to the trust for certain beneficiaries. Consider a trust if you have children or younger beneficiaries and want to delay their receipt of your estate until they are older. A trust should be used in conjunction with a will.
- Probate is the legal process of paying all debts and taxes of an estate and distributing the remaining property to the beneficiaries. Estate settlement can be time consuming and expensive. Several costs that may be experienced could include: services of an estate planner, executor or attorney, appraisals, court fees and estate tax, where applicable.
By setting up a proper estate, you can save yourself and your family from greater headache and heartache tomorrow. The Ohio State Bar Association (search keyword "LawFacts") and the Ohio State University Extension offer helpful tools for estate planning. Your local probate court also should be able to provide information and assistance. There are resources in the community to provide you with more information.
Throughout the summer, the State Treasurer's office will be offering free Smart Money Choices conferences in locations all over the state. Topics include estate planning, retirement planning and credit & debt management. Call 1-800-228-1102, option #1 to get more information or visit www.OhioTreasurer.gov/SmartMoneyChoices.
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