Although it may be easy to put off estate planning, failing to address one’s end-of-life wishes for the management of assets could leave those assets in control of the Ohio probate system. The state uses probate as an avenue for legally assessing the value of an estate and for determining how the relevant assets will be distributed to those entitled to inherit them in the absence of a will. While this might seem reasonable, the challenge is that those handling these matters may need to pay fees from the estate. Further, the recipients of assets according to intestacy law may be different from those that the decedent intended. Even with a valid will, the probate process can drag out.
A beneficiary designation can exempt some assets from probate. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies typically use this method for handling payment of funds after the death of the owner. Bank accounts and other assets might offer this option, but directions to pay a certain party or transfer ownership on death could also keep these accounts out of probate. Joint tenancy with survivorship rights can be used for other types of assets, allowing them to be completely owned by a surviving spouse after their partner expires.
Trusts often serve as alternatives to wills, allowing a trustee to manage a grantor’s assets. A living trust can also allow for estate management if a grantor becomes incapacitated.
Probate can be one of the most challenging issues for a decedent’s heirs, but working with an estate planning attorney could help to avoid this type of situation. Annual reviews of estate plans is important because this allows for changes in family dynamics to be addressed through updates.