No one likes to think about his or her own death, but what’s even harder to think about is your family struggling after losing you because you did not leave an estate plan to protect them. When you don’t plan for and protect your assets, the family you leave behind when you die or are left incapacitated must figure out where the assets are, what the value is, and who should get what, not to mention dealing with the probate process and possible taxes and fees that could have been avoided. Taking the simple step of meeting with the estate lawyer planning team at Littlejohn Law can save your family a great deal of trouble after you are gone.
What You Can Expect From Your Estate Planning Lawyer
Our process is the same for all of our estate planning clients. When you work with us, we will take you through the following steps:
- First, we will send you an Estate Planning Questionnaire to fill out and mail in before your first consultation. This gives us some basic information about your family and your assets.
- During your initial in-person consultation, we’ll ask questions to identify your goals and discuss the pros and cons of different strategies to accomplish those goals.
- We will then prepare the necessary estate planning documents, carefully explaining the purpose of each document and decision-making powers outlined in each.
- Finally, we’ll make sure you understand the documents you are signing and the impact they will have on you and your family.
Estate planning is an ongoing process and, once your initial plan is in place, we will follow up with you on a regular basis to make sure your plan still matches your desires. As major life events occur—children grow up, family members pass away or fall out of favor, assets are sold, or new properties are acquired—we will help you adjust your plan accordingly. Ours will be a lifelong partnership!
Key Elements of a Successful Estate Plan
Of course, our estate planning lawyers will help you create a plan that works for your unique situation, but, in general, a solid estate plan includes the following:
- Will/trust. As the main component of an estate plan, this is an important document. Wills ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes. Trusts allow you even more say in how and when your assets are distributed and may save your heirs money and protect them from legal challenges.
- Durable power of attorney. This document grants legal decision-making powers to a person you choose if you should become incapacitated. Married couples often designate each other, but you may also choose a friend or family member who is financially savvy.
- Beneficiary designations. A beneficiary and contingent beneficiary should be named for any possessions that can be passed directly to the person you choose. Life insurance policies, 401(k) plans, and other products should all name a beneficiary to save your loved ones time and money.
- Letter of intent. While not a legally binding document, this letter can provide immeasurable relief to your loved ones upon your passing or incapacitation. It is simply a letter addressed to your executor or a beneficiary that explains what you want to happen after your death. It may include healthcare or funeral wishes, wishes for distribution of special possessions, etc.
- Healthcare power of attorney. This important document designates a person to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself. You should choose a person you trust to carry out your wishes for resuscitation, treatment, and care facilities.
- Guardianship designations. If your trust does not name guardians for minor children, you should create a separate document that does. It is important that you discuss guardianship with the person or people you would like to select so that they are prepared to take your children if necessary.
To ensure that these documents are executed according to Ohio law and are revised as necessary over the years, you should work with our estate planning attorneys.
Put Your Mind at Ease by Taking This Difficult Step Today and Speak with Your Estate Planning Lawyer
For many people, taking that first step is the hardest. Connect with us today to schedule your telephone consultation and we will put your mind at ease. Life is unpredictable, but you can prepare for the unexpected by working with Littlejohn Law to create an estate plan that protects your assets and your family.