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Americans without estate planning risk unwanted outcomes

Surveys consistently show that a majority of Americans, including in Ohio, do not have in place sufficient legal measures to take care of all eventualities in the case of incapacitation or death. Elderly persons over 65 are also vulnerable to elder law fraud and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous third parties. There are now platforms and programs that are designed to create a storage place online for one's estate planning and other important documents.

Online storage is a convenient tool for keeping all of one's financial matters and estate planning instruments in one place. This should not be done, however, without making sure that the executor and trustees are duly informed and provided with copies of the relevant documents. The copies can be accompanied by a letter of instructions. It is also important these days to inform the online provider of precisely what information and documents are to be released to one's trustees and personal representatives and under what circumstances.

The four basic documents considered necessary to have the bare-bones estate plan in place are the will, power of attorney, health care directive and heath care proxy. Three of the four instruments require the appointment of a trusted friend or family member to carry out the specified duties. The health care directive instructs the doctors what to do with respect to one's terminal care treatment and an appointee is not included. The health care proxy, however, necessitates an appointment of someone to have authority to tell the health providers what to do under certain circumstances when the maker is incapacitated.

Similarly, the power of attorney designates a trusted person to take care of one's financial affairs in the case of incapacity. The will appoints an executor to handle the estate of the maker after death. The central person to assist in the preparation of a modern estate plan in Ohio is the estate planning attorney. A qualified financial planning expert may also be chosen to work in concert with the attorney.  

Source: CNBC, "These costly estate planning mistakes can be fixed", Lorie Konish, May 10, 2018

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