Estate Planning FAQS

A will is a written legal document that contains instructions for distributing your assets after your death. You may also nominate a guardian for your minor children. Your will must be formally executed in order to be considered valid by the Ohio courts. It must conform to Ohio state laws in order to be enforceable.

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Yes. Your will is valid and effective until it is revoked, destroyed or invalidated by writing a new will. You can make a whole new will or you may alter an existing will by making a codicil. A codicil modifies an existing will so long as it is executed in compliance with applicable state law. You cannot simply cross out language within your current will or add a new provision as this type of action does not usually meet the legal requirements for executing a valid will.

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A trust is a legal entity that holds assets for the benefit of another person or entity. They can be revocable or irrevocable based on the estate planning objectives of each individual client. They can be used to provide financial support, pass assets to persons or charities outside probate, to sometimes minimize the burden of estate taxes or for any number of other goals. There exist a number of trusts that you may use to reach your estate planning objectives. These include a living trust or testamentary trust and other trusts which serve specific needs.

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A living trust becomes effective during the lifetime of the person who created the trust. The creator of the trust can alter or revoke the living trust during his lifetime. A living trust will generally eliminate the need for conservatorship and the trust assets generally pass outside of probate proceedings. This is because the living trust usually contains instructions for managing trust assets during the creator's lifetime and instructions for distributing trust assets upon the creator's incapacity or after his or her death.

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A power of attorney is a document where you give another person the authority to act as your agent or attorney in fact. They can be used for a number of reasons. Some typical uses are to give someone authority to handle your affairs if you become disabled, to purchase property for you if you are not available, to handle your affairs as you age and you find it more difficult to handle things on your own. There also is a health care power of attorney that allows another person to make decisions regarding your medical treatment if you are unable to.

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When a person dies their assets must be distributed whether they have a will or not. The process to achieve this is called probate. In order for a person's will to considered valid by the court, it must go through the procedure of probate. If there is no will, the court will appoint someone to be the administrator of the estate and the assets will pass according to Ohio state statutes.

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The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors. It depends on what estate planning had been done prior to the decedent's death, how the assets are owned, does the asset pass by trust, contract, etc. It is often difficult to determine what is probate property without the assistance of an attorney.

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A claim against the estate is a claim made by someone against a decedent's estate for money or property they believe is due to them. These claims can occur before, at or after the death of a decedent. Claims can very quickly become involved and intricate. It is important to have an experienced Ohio probate attorney work with you to probate your estate.

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If a person made a purchase but had not fully paid the amount due before he died, this would be a claim against the estate. Or someone may claim that the decedent wanted to bequeath property to him. Funeral and burial expenses may also be claims against the estate. Certain taxes, debts, and contract or tort claims can also occur as claims against the estate.

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If you have questions about estate planning in Ohio, contact Cleveland estate planning attorney Bart Leonardi today.

Attorney Bart Leonardi

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