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Estate planning review can be convenient this time of year

Ohio residents may use the end of the year period to review their estate plan. Alternatively, they may use this time to get one started. For those who have already engaged in some degree of estate planning, it is a good time to review one's beneficiaries. This may include persons that have received gifts in the person's will, and it may include the beneficiaries that are listed on insurance policies or on retirement or investment accounts.

If anyone has died in recent years or if there has been a divorce, go through all documents to make sure that the beneficiaries have been changed and are up to date. For example, on a life insurance policy, if the listed beneficiary has died first and there is no replacement, the proceeds will go into the probate estate. It is preferred, however, that the proceeds be disposed of by direct payment to the beneficiary outside of the estate.

One should inventory one's assets to see if there are new ones to include, or in some cases, whether some prior assets have been sold or liquidated. Make changes accordingly. If a living trust exists, review it in the context of your current assets and determine if any of those assets must be transferred to the trust.

Remember, the assets in the living trust generally will escape the probate estate at the maker's death. In addition to checking on beneficiaries, it is a good time to take a look and see if one's appointments to powers of attorney, executors and trustees are all in order and up to date. Check also the medical powers of attorney and the basic financial power of attorney.

In addition, trustees appointed in the living trust and in the last will and testament should be double-checked, as well as the executor appointed to handle the estate administration. It is also time to establish a digital estate plan in accordance with Ohio law if one is not already in place. For all of the complex issues that may arise in estate planning, it is very helpful to consult with an estate planning attorney to learn the full range of options and rights available.

Source: thebalance.com, "Year-End Estate Planning Tasks to Tackle Now", Rebecca Lake, Nov. 27, 2017

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