Q & A on Spring Cleaning your Estate Planning Documents 3/11/15

INTRO- Have you done your spring cleaning? If you did, did you find any old Wills and Powers of Attorney that haven't been looked at since bell bottoms were in fashion? If that's the case or if you haven't done your estate planning at all, it may be time to clean up your estate plan whether you are married, single or in a same sex relationship.

Q. Why should a person's estate plan be updated from time to time?

A. Laws change, your assets change, your situation changes. What was right in 1980, may not work at all today. Let's say you name your spouse then your mother as your Executor because your kids are minors at the time. Now, your mother may be deceased and there is no successor executor. Worse, what if you have named your brother as the beneficiary of your estate when you didn't have kids and now he inherits the whole estate. Just like we update other parts of our lives, we need to update our Wills.

Q. What if I don't have a Will? Won't everything end up with my next of kin anyway?

A. Well Ohio law does provide that your nearest next of kin inherit, but without a properly drafted Will, it may take longer and be harder for them to inherit because the administrator (similar to an executor, but an executor has to be nominated by a Will) will have to ask the court's permission before handling a number of things -such as selling the home.

Not only that, but what if you're not married or in a same sex relationship? Ohio law does NOT define next of kin as a same sex partner, even if you are married in another state.

For example, let's say you're in a relationship but not married or you're a same sex couple married in another state. You live together and one person owns the house. Without any estate planning, when that person dies, their partner has no right to live in the house. The house will pass under Ohio law to the next of kin.

Q. Is it just my Will I need to think about?

A. No. The Will handles your estate when you die, but estate planning refers to more than just death. What happens if you become incompetent and cannot make medical decisions or pay your bills? That's where a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney come in. The Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to handle your finances. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you can't. No matter how long you have lived together, without these documents if you are incompetent, someone may need to go to court to become guardian to handle your financial and health care decisions.

CLOSE: As you can see, your Estate Planning is important. But there is no one size fits all. You should sit down with your attorney to discuss what you need to handle your situation.