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Failure of proper estate planning can lead to costly mistakes

Ohio and other states have over 50 percent of their adult residents without wills or living trusts. When a person dies intestate, i.e., without a will, it can be a major mistake and a serious burden on the deceased person's heirs. Without all necessary mechanisms being put in place by good estate planning, family members may incur significant expenses in setting up all the processes necessary to finalize the estate and distribute the assets.

Dying intestate may give relatives who are not favored the right to come in and claim their share of an estate under the applicable intestate laws. Having proper estate planning also allows for appointing persons to handle one's health care decisions if one becomes incapacitated. It also allows for appointing a person to handle one's financial affairs through a durable power of attorney.

Without estate planning, one's family members may have to spend considerable sums for a guardian to be appointed by the court to carry out such functions. The foregoing omissions may be matched in potential damages by the ill-advised attempt to go online and create legal documents from templates or self-help instructions. Technical aspects of the documents are often missed or misstated, leading to invalid documents, possible litigation and other expenses to unravel the damage created by oversimplification and other errors.

Multiple marriages comprise fertile ground for serious problems to occur in Ohio and other states. Such situations require precise estate planning lest there be children from a prior marriage unwittingly cut off from their intended inheritance. In that situation and others, there may be a need to create trust documents or title property a certain way during life. Whenever there are potential problems with heirs who do not get along or harbor rivalries, it is far better to tailor a plan that will satisfy their divergent needs or interests and erase the potential for bickering after the benefactor's death.

Source: marketwatch.com, "7 common estate planning disasters and how to avoid them", Michael Feinfeld, April 26, 2018

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