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Westerville Ohio Legal Blog

Keep these 5 estate planning mistakes out of your life

Even if you devote the necessary time and attention to estate planning, there is no guarantee that you'll take all the right steps the first time around. With so many mistakes lurking, you need to carefully consider every decision you make.

Here are five of the most common estate planning mistakes:

  • Skipping it altogether: You have the legal right to do this, but it's not in your best interest. A comprehensive estate plan will ensure that your assets end up with the right person. It also allows you to plan for the future, such as through the creation of a living will and appointing a power of attorney.
  • Forgetting to update your estate plan: You'll feel better after you create an estate plan, but don't forget to review and update it as necessary. For example, you'll need to do this if you marry, divorce or bring a new child into your family.
  • Neglecting to plan for disability: You could become disabled at any time as the result of an injury or illness. There are estate planning steps you can take to protect yourself, such as naming a power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf.
  • Not naming a guardian: Your children are likely to be a big part of your estate plan. If you have any children under the age of 18, make sure you name a guardian to care for them in the event of your death.
  • Overlooking ways to reduce your estate tax: There are many strategies for reducing estate tax, such as gifting money to your spouse every year.

Why your children may need 2 types of guardians if you die

If you're in the process of choosing someone to be your children's guardian if you and their other parent were to both pass away (in a car accident or plane crash, for example), it's essential to understand a couple of key terms — guardian of the person and guardian of the estate.

You may choose one person to carry out both of those responsibilities or you may decide it's best to name two different people — particularly if your children will be inheriting a significant amount of money when you die. Let's look at what these roles involve.

Don't forget your cryptocurrency in your estate planning

Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency have become an increasingly popular investment. In addition to the fact that some of these currencies have grown significantly in value throughout their relatively recent history, they are appealing to a lot of investors because of the secrecy surrounding them.

For example, bitcoins are stored in a virtual wallet rather than an account. While you need something called a "public key" to send and receive currency, your wallet can be accessed only via a private key. If the owner dies without sharing information about their cryptocurrency holdings with anyone -- including their private keys -- that currency is gone.

Did you remember your digital assets when estate planning?

You and many other Ohio residents likely enjoy the ease that completing various transactions online provides. Logging on to your online bank account may allow you to stay at home rather than traveling to your bank's physical location, or you may even have the ability to complete work-related assignments at home rather than having to go into the office. Of course, you can also make your various social media posts online.

While you may not think too much beyond the convenience of these actions, it is important to know that you have created digital assets. Everything from your online photo albums to your bank accounts falls into this category. Because they are assets, you need to remember them when creating your estate plan.

Estate planning for people facing a future with dementia

If you have a parent or other loved one who's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another condition like Parkinson's disease that can also cause dementia, the news can be a stunning blow. However, if their condition is diagnosed in the early stages, they may have years before they begin to have serious memory loss and other debilitating symptoms.

While they're still able to make decisions about their care, their end-of-life wishes and their estates, it's essential to draft some legal documents. This can help your loved one rest assured that their affairs will be handled by the people they choose when they're no longer able to make financial and health care decisions for themselves.

How you can prevent family battles over your estate

One of the advantages of having an estate plan is that there's less chance that your family and other beneficiaries (or people who think they should be beneficiaries) will battle over your assets. Even if you have a close-knit family whom you're certain would never turn on one another, the sad fact is that money combined with long-simmering resentments can cause serious family battles.

You don't have to disclose the contents of your estate plan to your family. However, if you're making decisions that you think could surprise or disappoint people, it might be best to let them know about them while you're still around. The important thing is that they understand that you were fully aware of your decisions, have reasons for them and haven't been unduly influenced by anyone.

Farm succession planning should begin years before you retire

Too many Ohio farmers are so busy running their businesses that they haven't taken the time to consider what will happen to them after they're gone or unable to run them any longer. Estate planning is important for just about everyone. For farmers, it's essential.

The average American farmer is nearly 60 years old. It's estimated that some 70 percent of farms will end up in new hands over the next 20 years. However, about half of all farmers in this country have no estate plan.

Letter of last instruction can provide useful estate information

As you consider your end-of-life wishes, you may have many details on your mind. You may also wonder what documents are appropriate for housing these details and providing your family with necessary instruction when the time comes. A variety of estate planning tools exist that can help with this endeavor, but you may also want to consider less-formal documentation.

In particular, a letter of last instruction could be immensely useful to your family and your estate plan over all. This letter is not a legally-binding document, but it can provide a considerable amount of useful information. It can also include any information you believe your family needs, whether it is information about your estate or more sentimental thoughts.

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The best time to plan for the future is now, before you find yourself in unexpected circumstances. Call us today at 614-423-4619 or toll-free at 888-428-0610. You may also email our firm. We work with clients in Columbus and throughout Ohio.

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Metz, Bailey & McLoughlin
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Westerville, OH 43081

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