There are people out there that assume that there is really no need for estate planning lawyers, because things just take care of themselves. After all, there are laws on the books to ensure that assets get into the right hands after someone dies, right?
The answer is yes, there are intestate succession laws. However, in many if not most cases, your assets would not be distributed in accordance with your true wishes if you do nothing and let the courts sort it out.
For example, let’s say that you were never married, and you have no children. You have a twin brother, and the two of you are extremely close. Your brother has a reasonably good job, but he has a lot of expenses because your niece has a serious medical condition.
When you pass away, your father is still alive, and he is very well-off financially. Your mother was divorced from your father, and she died years before your passing. You and your brother did not have a good relationship with your father, and you rarely came in contact with him.
Under these circumstances, you would want your brother to inherit your property. However, under Ohio intestate succession laws, your father would be the sole inheritor.
Granted, this is an extreme example, but the point is made. Unintended negative consequences can come about when you die without expressing your wishes in writing.
The probate court handles intestacy cases, and in rare instances, no living relatives will come forward. Under these circumstances, the court will appoint an administrator, and they will try to locate the next of kin.
If no one is found, the state can absorb the assets under escheatment statutes. In fact, about 10 years ago, there was an intestacy case in the news. Roman Blum, a New York real estate investor, passed away with an estate that was worth about $40 million.
He was a Holocaust survivor, and he was 97 years old at the time of his passing. The court instructed the estate representative to do everything possible to locate a living relative. A couple of people have made claims over the years, but they were not approved by the court.
Dangers of DIY Estate Planning
Some people that do not have plans in place know that they should do something, and they look for an easy way out. There are websites that sell legal documents including simple wills and trusts, and some of these folks will try to go it alone with boilerplate documents that they get online.
In the broad picture, this is a matter of common sense. When you plan your estate, you are arranging for the transfer of everything you own to the people that you love the most. There are legal requirements, and there are different ways to facilitate asset transfers.
As a layperson, do you know how you should proceed? Do you understand the probate process that will enter the picture if you use a will? Are you aware of alternatives that will facilitate transfers outside of probate?
These are just a few of the most basic questions that arise, but there are many others. When you work with a lawyer to plan your estate, you will gain an understanding of your options. At the end of the day, you can make informed decisions, and the administration process will go smoothly.
Speaking of estate administration, your attorney can be engaged to help your family navigate through the process after you are gone. You turn a complicated, uncertain situation into a turnkey experience for your loved ones when you take the right steps in advance.
Schedule a Consultation!
We are here to help if you would like to work with a Loveland, OH estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place. You can call us at 513-721-1513 to schedule a consultation appointment, and you can use our contact form if you would prefer to send us a message.