Estate planning is an awkward issue, but it's important for adults to keep their affairs in order in case sudden tragedy strikes. Proper planning can help your survivors avoid drawn-out legal battles and ensure that your wishes are followed. Most states have similar laws, although Ohio differs in some details.

Writing The Will

Begin by writing a will that spells out how you want your possessions distributed. If you have children, your will can set up guardianship for them. You can name an executor, someone to make sure all your debts are paid and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Ohio wills can be typed, handwritten or oral. They must have two witnesses. Although it's possible to prepare a will on your own, having an estate-planning attorney review it can ensure that it is in proper order.

Probate Issues

Probate is the legal process that ensures that all an estate's debts are paid before assets are divided. Ohio offers an expedited probate process for estates valued at less than $35,000. You can avoid probate by taking steps such as creating a trust, transferring property during your lifetime, or creating accounts that are payable on death. Joint ownership also eliminates the need for probate.

Power of Attorney

Granting someone power of attorney allows him to take care of your personal business affairs if you can't. You can give your agent limited powers, such as just handling your banking, or broad abilities, such as selling your house. Either way, you should make sure that the person you appoint is aware of the general philosophy you follow when conducting your personal affairs. You can also create a medical power of attorney.

Health Care Questions

Advance directives set up procedures for making health-care decisions if you're unable to make such decisions yourself. In Ohio, you can create a living will to spell out what type of live-saving or life-extending measure you agree to. You also can designate an agent to make decisions for you if you are incapacitated. If you create a living will, make sure your loved ones know that it exists so you can be sure your wishes are followed.

Funeral Arrangements

Whether you want to be buried or go quietly without a funeral, spell these wishes out in your will or in a "letter of final instructions." If you want to donate your organs, register and make sure your family is aware that you have done so. Prepaid funerals can be convenient for loved ones, but pre-need plans don't always cover costs after inflation. Ohio laws spell out how these plans must be set up and how the money should be handled.

Other Considerations

Only estates worth more than $5.25 million are liable for estate taxes as of 2013, so most people won't have to worry about this issue. All business owners need to plan for the day when they can no longer run their business and implement a succession plan to keep things going smoothly after their deaths. If you think your spouse or children will struggle financially after your death, consider a life insurance policy. Other things to keep in mind are who will take care of your pets after you're gone and if you want to leave money to a favorite cause.

This article is a broad look at issues you should consider when planning your estate. Consult an Ohio estate planning lawyer for questions about your specific situation.

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