“I’m not worried about estate taxes, so I don’t need an estate plan. My [son, friend, neighbor, accountant, fill in the blank] told me so.”
I hear this a lot. It’s a common misconception that the only reason to do estate planning is to avoid estate taxes. In reality, most people need estate planning. If any of these common situations apply to you, consider meeting with an estate planning attorney.
My children are minors, or I have disabled children.
If your children are minors, or if you have a disabled child, you must have a formal document naming who you want to be their guardian if something happens to both parents.
Naming a guardian is most commonly done through a Will, but there are other acceptable methods in Ohio. Without proper planning, the probate court will decide who becomes the guardian of your children.
In a situation where multiple family members (i.e., 2 sets of grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles) attempt to become guardians, it can become very unpleasant for everyone involved, but mostly for your children! Who wants your crazy sister to get control? Don’t let a stranger decide.
Also, without proper planning, your children get their money at 18! An estate planner helps you identify the best options for delaying control of your assets based on what you feel is the most appropriate age.
I have a blended family.
Without proper estate planning, the “laws of descent and distribution” will determine how your assets will be distributed after your death.
If you have children from a prior marriage and a new spouse, and possibly step-children, your estate may not be distributed as you expect or would otherwise want. Proper estate planning ensures that your assets are distributed the way you intended.
I am not married.
If you are not married and don’t have a plan in place, the laws of descent and distribution also apply.
Maybe you aren’t married but have a significant other, or perhaps a very close friend, whom you would want to benefit. Maybe you prefer your assets go to charity. Or maybe you are close to your second cousin twice removed but don’t really like your sister.
Proper planning allows you to benefit the people you choose, not who the law says (like that sister).
I have a child with special needs.
An estate planner can help you create a plan to protect your child’s eligibility for Medicaid when the child becomes an adult while still having your assets available for the child’s supplemental needs.
I have a child with mental health or substance abuse issues, a “bad spouse,” or creditor problems.
An estate planner can help you create a plan that will protect your child from themself, create space between your assets and the child’s spouse, or insulate the assets from creditors while still providing support for your child.
I own a business or farm where one or more of my children work.
This is a very common scenario with a family-owned business. The business is the most significant asset of the estate, and one or more of your children has “sweat equity” while the other children have not participated.
You want to reward the children who helped build the business and share your success with your other children. An estate planner can help you identify techniques that allow you to do both.
So, estate planning matters. Now, what?
These are just a few examples of why estate planning is important. So, does estate planning matter to you? You betcha.
And I get it. These are hard things to talk about. People don’t want to talk about their death. But, I often find that the most reluctant people, in the beginning, are the most grateful for the peace of mind they have the moment the documents are signed.
The process does not have to be confusing, daunting, scary, or difficult. It likely will take less time—and be less expensive—than you think. You can often get a cost estimate in your first meeting with an estate planner, and with Wood + Lamping, payment arrangements are available when needed. But I can assure you some of these scenarios can be far more costly and time-consuming if you don’t plan.
So, make an appointment with an estate planner for an initial consultation and begin building the best plan for you and your loved ones.