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Estate planning and alternatives to wills

Ohio residents may be surprised to learn that not only is there more to estate planning than writing a will but that in some cases, a will may not be necessary or desirable. While every adult should have an estate plan, an individual who chooses to distribute most of their assets using a will risks those assets being tied up in probate court for months or even years.

Rather than automatically turning to a will as the first estate planning solution, individuals may wish to look at other options, and doing so with an attorney may ensure that the documentation is prepared correctly and is in line with current law. Some rules relating to estate planning may change frequently. For example, the estate tax exemption has risen each year for the last several years. Furthermore, a few years ago, there were changes in laws about power of attorney.

Individuals should also update estate plans regularly to reflect changes in their families such as births, deaths and marriages. People who are single should not neglect estate planning either. While they may not have dependents they want to ensure are cared for, they still should consider preparing documents dealing with medical decision-making and the type of end-of-life they wish to receive as well as asset distribution.

Just as different individuals will have different estate planning needs, the same person's estate planning needs will continue to change throughout their life. Working with an attorney to keep the plans up to date and to make strategic decisions based on current law may be the best way to ensure that an estate plan accurately reflects an individual's wishes. Communication with loved ones is also an important aspect of preparing an estate plan that is less likely to be challenged or cause conflict after an individual's death.

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