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Estate planning provides the power of choice to the maker

Having an estate plan is more of a necessity than a luxury item just for rich people. Everyone will benefit from having estate planning instruments in place that will be effective both during life and at death. The governing instrument at death in Ohio and all other states is usually the decedent's last will and testament.  

The will includes the testator's wishes for the distribution of his or her assets after death. It may contain testamentary trusts wherein an appointed trustee holds assets in trust for minors and others. The will specifies when and how the trustee shall distribute the assets. The will may also contain specific bequests, such as giving a home or other real estate directly to a named recipient. In addition, it may have a residuary clause that divides up the general residuary funds to the testator's children or others, usually in equal shares.

If one does not make a will, his or her death will trigger what is called an intestacy. If there are significant assets in the decedent's name at death, an estate must be filed. The person filing the estate and administering it will not necessarily be the one that the decedent would have chosen if he or she had written a will.

State law will say who is in line to serve as the personal representative. In the same way, state laws of intestate succession will determine which of the decedent's blood relatives will receive shares of the estate and in what percentages. During the testator's life, he or she may initiate the estate planning process by making a revocable living trust.

The maker transfers assets over to the trust to be held by the trustee under the trust terms, which must comport with estate planning laws in Ohio. The maker of the trust may also serve as the trustee. The various considerations on whether to use this legal instrument is complicated enough that one should discuss it with an experienced estate planning attorney. At the same, the other legal documents that are usually a part of an estate plan will be discussed with the attorney and explained to the individual or family members in attendance.

Source: axcessnews.com, "Creating a Will and Estate Planning: How to Get It Right", Boris Dzhingarov, Dec. 22, 2017

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