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Changes in tax laws can lead to estate plan changes

Individuals in Ohio who prepared their wills and trusts several years ago may find that the documents are now out of date. One of the differences is in tax laws for high-asset couples.

Sometimes, people will use trusts instead of writing a will in order to avoid probate, because the process can be expensive and time-consuming. However, couples used to have to choose which assets would go in whose trust, and when one of them died, the surviving spouse still only received an estate tax exemption for a single person even if some of the deceased spouse's assets passed to them. However, Congress passed a portability law several years ago which provides that any part of the deceased spouse's exclusion not used can be transferred to the surviving spouse. Many couples are now choosing a single trust.

Individuals should review their estate plans to ensure that they remain current with changes in state and federal law. For example, they may need to change the legal language so that the plans still have the intended effects.

Estate planning is often neglected because it can be a difficult topic, and people and their families tend to not want to discuss it. Once an estate plan has been made, it can be tempting to set it aside and not think of it again, but it is also important to keep the plan up to date. Families change just as tax laws do, and estate plans should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they reflect marriages, divorces, births, deaths and other changes in relationships. People may also wish to create an advance medical directive that instructs loved ones regarding their wishes for end-of-life care.

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