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If you think you don't need an estate plan, think again

The very use of the term estate in the context of estate planning is something of a problem, don't you think? Consider – what do you think of as an estate? Downton Abbey? The Breakers? Big structures with hundreds of years of history are the common image of what constitutes an estate.

You won't find many places like that in Ohio, but the truth of the matter is that the Buckeye State is literally covered with estates. Every house, every farm, every piece of property owned by an individual represents an estate. Yet, by most estimates, preparing for the bequeathing of assets after death is still on the to-do list for many estate owners – and it's probably somewhere near the bottom.

What constitutes an estate?

If something you own has value, it represents part of your estate. Do you have a life insurance policy, even just one to cover funeral expenses? That's an asset. Bank accounts, retirement funds, stocks, cars, heirlooms, even firearms, can all carry value, whether monetary or sentimental. Without a proper plan, the state will decide how those assets are divided up.

Experts agree that for the sake of peace of mind and to ease the burden that most assuredly will land on loved ones, estate planning is wise. Many may hesitate to approach the subject because it can be difficult to talk about death. But those experienced in this area law also appreciate that it can be intimidating.

Many instruments exist to meet a variety of needs. Each case is unique and finding the right tool to fulfill a desired outcome requires careful planning. With clear knowledge and guidance, however, the right forms can be drafted and processes followed to be sure that the instruments are legally enforceable.

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