By Jennifer R. Hallos, Esq.
Ben Franklin once said, “…nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, and Jen Hallos, a Principal in our Trust & Estates and Tax Law practice groups, certainly agrees. Planning for the inevitability of both death and taxes is vital in best handling the associated outcomes of these events. Many people push the process of getting their affairs in order to the bottom of their to do list because, from their perspective, death seems like a faraway event. However, Jen advocates that establishing a plan is not solely about planning for what is going to happen to your assets when you die, but it’s a way to preserve and protect your assets during your lifetime, and everyone can benefit from that.
Jen has three main goals for each of her estate planning clients:
1.) Probate Avoidance. We want to avoid the probate process at all costs because it is time consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining. Ohio law requires a probate estate to be open for a minimum of 6 months after the date of death, however, this process can take years, and time means money. Additionally, all details regarding the process, including financial information, become public record. Above all, the process is emotionally exhausting. When a loved one dies, time should be spent mourning the loss, not filing paperwork with the court for months, or even years. Establishing a plan will aid in avoiding this process. If there are minor children involved, the potential complications are exponentially greater.
2.) Asset Protection. The next goal is to protect the assets from outsiders. Proper planning protects the assets both during lifetime and at death for the next generation. Asset protection planning provides protection from creditors (personal and business), divorcing spouses, and sometimes even from the beneficiaries themselves.
3.) Tax Minimization. Jen firmly believes that nobody should pay a penny more to the IRS than they are legally required to do. As part of the planning process, Jen will identify potential ways to save clients money – both in life and at death. And who doesn’t want to benefit from that?
Most of us tend to assume that death is a far-off hypothetical. It is important to remember that death is not an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’. In case something unexpected happens, the sooner a plan is in place, the better. Ideally, when an individual starts working and accruing assets of their own, they should begin to consider establishing a plan to preserve those assets. This plan becomes more crucial when children come into the picture. In the event of a death, if minor children are left behind, having detailed custody arrangements minimizes the amount of time the family of the deceased needs to spend in court working out those details. Additionally, from a practical standpoint, the planning process is emotionally easier for young and healthy people to tackle, whereas, for elderly or terminally ill clients, planning becomes too real and the emotion of it makes the process difficult.
Jen is here to help clients tackle the emotional, practical, and technical issues that come with estate and tax planning. Like most things in life, proper planning is an investment and not just an investment of time and money, but also an emotional investment for your family.