Estate Planning Checklist: Are You Prepared?

There are numerous ways to approach an estate plan, taking into consideration various facets of a person’s life circumstances, including age, marital status, children and assets. An estate plan can get fairly complicated- from CRUTs and GRATs to ILITs and SNTs, just to name a few Trusts. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the possible tools to use in an estate plan. However, even the most basic of estate plans should tick off the boxes on the following checklist: estate plans should include a Will, General Durable Power of Attorney (“GDPOA”), Health Care Power of Attorney (“HCPOA”), and a Digital Assets Inventory.

A Will directs how a person wants their assets to be distributed upon their death, and importantly, names an executor, who will be the person in charge of administering the individual’s estate. If a person dies without a Will, their assets would be distributed according to the Ohio laws of intestacy, leaving the decedent with no control over who they would wish to inherit upon their death. A GDPOA grants a trusted individual the authority to act on the principal’s behalf, giving the agent broad powers to manage the principal’s legal and financial affairs and can avoid the need for a court-imposed guardianship. Similarly, a Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot communicate your wishes. Finally, as Ohio has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, an individual should create a Digital Assets Inventory and plan in advance for a fiduciary to have access to his or her digital assets after death. This has become especially important in recent years as technology advances, and many people hold assets in online accounts. Depending on your assets and life circumstances, a Trust could be a key component to add to your estate plan “checklist” as well.

A final box to check off on the estate plan checklist, which people often delay in “checking off,” is to take the next steps after your estate plan documents are finalized so that your plan can be properly utilized when it is most needed. A Will should be deposited with the Probate Court in the county in which you are a resident for safekeeping and easy location upon your death. At the very least, the Will should be secured in a safe location that a trusted person is aware of so it can be easily located later on. The agents listed on your GDPOA and HCPOA should be notified they are the named agents on your documents, and the originals should be placed somewhere for safekeeping that can be accessed when needed. Importantly, if you created a Trust, your assets should be titled in the name of the Trust. If assets are not titled correctly, the Trust is essentially a shell which cannot distribute your assets as specified in the Trust document. Thus, implementing your estate plan checklist is not finished upon execution of the planning documents. Rather, it is important you take those finals steps so that when the day comes, your plan is carried out as intended.

No matter which estate plan you decide is best for you, the basic estate plan should be able to tick off the boxes on the above checklist. If you would like further information on your estate plan, please contact one of Mansour Gavin's Estate Planning attorneys.

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