Estate planning is a vital part of any legal representation today. With the constant changes in probate and estate taxation the individual cannot afford to merely trust the forms found on the internet or advice from someone who wants to sell them insurance, annuities or create a standard trust to "avoid probate". The first question the client should ask when they receive unsolicited invitations to "estate planning" seminars is Who is going to benefit? Generally the person selling the so-called tax free annuities or some other means of avoiding probate is looking out for their own interest and not the client's. Remember these salesmen are receiving a significant commissions to convince you to purchase their product. When you consult with a lawyer his primary goal is to preserve your assets through the estate process and not merely figure out how to sell you a product. You should select the attorney that you feel comfortable with not someone who is selected by a "trust mill" to help you.
The primary estate planning tools that I review with my clients include their Will, any Powers of Attorney; their Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care. For those who have a need, we evaluate the possibility of a Trust either revocable or irrevocable and occasionally there is a need to evaluate the possibility of a "special needs" trust for those clients who have a special needs child.
In an estate, we must immediately assess if there is a need to probate the Will, collect and preserve the assets and more importantly, evaluate the estate for any estate tax consequences. Frequently the client is under the misunderstanding of the Probate Process will take years to complete, however in Ohio the estate process is normally completed in 6 months to one year.
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