Estate Administration– Estate Administration is the process by which legal title of property is transferred from the decedent’s estate to his or her designated beneficiaries or legal heirs. Estate administration is generally initiated by the Executor or Administrator and is supervised by the Probate Court and Judge. Generally, there are three phases to estate administration: opening the estate, collecting and distributing assets of the estate, and closing the estate. The process may involve, validating the decedent’s will, appraising property, accounting for assets in an inventory, paying the decedent’s debts and expenses, and distributing the net estate according to will or state law. There are three primary types of estate administrations in Ohio, Administration of a Full Estate, Release from Administration and a Summary Release from Administration. Asset value generally determines which administration must be used.
Estate Planning- Estate planning depends upon the the testator’s assets, goals and concerns. The desired outcome is an orderly disposition of the testator’s assets upon death with minimal exposure and expenses associated with probate court and or inheritance tax. Estate administration should alleviate disputes among family members in that the testator’s wishes regarding distribution of assets are clearly stated. A variety of “tools” are used in the estate planning process, including but not limited to survivorship deeds, transfer on death deeds, Payable on death designations, Transfer on death designations and JTWRS designations.
Last Will and Testament– The will is your written declaration of how your assets are to be distributed after your death. In this document, you are able to name an executor, who shall be in charge of distributing your estate to your chosen beneficiaries, after debts are satisfied. Additionally, you may nominate a guardian for minor children and create a trust to care for their assets until they reach a more mature age.
General/Finance Power of Attorney– A power of attorney gives the individual you nominate, the full power to act on your behalf and sign all documents you are otherwise able to sign. A power of attorney may help avoid the need for an appointed guardian in Probate Court, should you become mentally or physically unable to administer your own affairs. Great care should be exercised when choosing your attorney-in-fact, because the potential exists for them to abuse their power, and use your assets for their own expenses.
Health Care Power of Attorney– A health care power of attorney provides the individual you nominate, the authority to make health care decisions for you and express your intentions regarding medical treatment, should you be unable to do so yourself. If you become unconscious and/or do not have the mental capacity to make decisions, your health care power of attorney has the authority to discuss matters with your doctor or hospital, and make decisions based on their recommendations.
Living Will– The living will is your written declaration regarding the removal of life sustaining treatments and in some cases is the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration. The living will differs from a power of attorney in that you, not a power of attorney are making the decision for withdrawal of treatment. This alleviates the family member or friend from having to make such a difficult decision. The living will only applies when you are in terminal condition or permanently unconscious and have lost the capacity to make decisions.
Trust– A trust is a legal entity, created by you, that can hold title to property or assets for the benefit of the creator and or others. There are numerous types of trusts each designed to meet a particular goal of the creator, such as asset protection or tax avoidance. The trust can be a valuable estate planning tool, but is not necessary for everyone.
Guardianship– Guardianship is the legal right given to a person to be responsible for a minor or incompetent individual. The guardianship can be granted over the person only or the person and their assets (estate).
Name Change– This is an action usually filed in Probate Court allowing an individual the opportunity to legally change his or her name from that received at birth, marriage or adoption. Publication is required. The request will not be granted if it is found to be based on fraudulent or other illegal purposes. A name change may also be obtained through the Domestic Relations Court in conjunction with a pending dissolution or divorce.
Declaration of Burial Instructions– A declaration of burial instructions is a document that contains a statement of your preferences concerning your burial and or cremation. In addition, it appoints a representative to exercise the right of disposition for your body after death. In many cases, this declaration can alleviate disputes among family members in that your wishes regarding burial and or cremation have been clearly stated.