We have had some challenging years. Many people are stretched to their limits not only in finances but in the taking care of others and trying to not only help, but to handle their own issues.
There has been an increase of Probate Cases, which means many were not proactive in their thinking and planning. In many cases, there are no Wills. I have also noticed this decade of Probate and Estate Planning cases have a lack of family cohesiveness and help. One of the children will more likely than not handle everything with little or no help. They will also have their own families and their own jobs. So they have little time. Many will leave bank accounts and investment accounts to named beneficiaries which means there is no monies in the probate case to handle the sale of real estate and other issues.
The children or friends filing the Probate Matter have no understanding of the problems they face. They hire an attorney expecting them to handle things. This is not the attorney's role. The Attorney is reviewing the legal issues, helping with the strategy and putting documents in place. They work in conjunction with the Administrator (no Will) or Executor (where there is a Will). Attorneys are there to help you through the process, handle the legalities when they come up, and help navigate you to the end.
I have been a proponent of Proactive Law for years especially after handling probate cases, and at this time with the lack of family members and people in proximity to help, it is ever more important. The lack of a paper trail complicates the process more. We spend much time trying to gather the assets and the debt.
The first place I begin with an Estate Planning client is to put together a Personal Financial Summary and discuss the family issues. This allows us to think through the problems that will be faced if you end up with a disease such as dementia and need someone to step in to take care of you, your finances and work with third parties. Also in today's world, as I have discovered in many of my cases, there is no physical periodic mail for accounts and bills, and everything may be in a computer that no one can get into. This makes it hard to begin the review of the case to determine what needs to be done. In some cases, the assets are discovered years later after we closed the estate. Now there is more court costs and legal work to pay for. By putting together information in your files where you have your estate documents and with your trusted advisor, you will make things easier to work through and the cost will likely be less.
A Personal Financial Summary with back up statements and information should be put put in place. This provides the client back up for all open accounts which means assets and debt. Reviewing the issues is easier with this in front of us. We also discuss family relationships, who will be the one that takes charge and how to make it easier to empower that person to be in charge.
The next step is think through could this just be a Simple Estate Plan and still work at avoiding a full probate, or should a Revocable Living Trusts be put in place. Simple Estate planning of a Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will/Health Care Power of Attorney should be in place in all cases.
Each family has its own facts, circumstances, concerns and needs, and keeping that in mind, a Trusted Advisor who listens, asks questions and gives advice is different than just buying a Will. If you are in the Summit County, Portage County, or Cuyahoga County, Ohio areas, I would love to work with you. I do work through out Ohio with Small Business Owners to put an effective Estate Plan in place to accounts for their Succession Plan, Exit Strategy, Retirement, and the Growth of their Investment in their Business. This planning is important during every aspect of your business and should begin at the start.
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