Estate PLanning

Columbus Estate Planning Attorney for Wills, Trusts, and Probate

Serving clients in Columbus and the surrounding communities, including Reynoldsburg, Pickerington, Obetz, Grove City, Galloway, Hilliard, Amlin, Dublin, Westerville, and throughout Ohio.

If you are looking to gain some peace of mind knowing that settling your affairs will be as easy as possible for your loved ones, consider having a legally-sound will prepared for you. Oftentimes, establishing a trust is beneficial as well. Or, if you need help settling the estate of a loved one, I can help.

As a member of the Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law Section of the Ohio State Bar Association, I have the experience and expertise you can trust. If you are looking to make a new will, update your existing will, establish a trust, or settle the estate of a loved one in Columbus, Ohio, call me or my firm today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer. I provide affordable flat-fee pricing for most estate planning matters, and I am available to answer any questions that you may have.

What Is Involved in Strategic Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a process of creating legally-binding documents and instruments that address the protection of assets during life and after death, as well as the protection of a person in the event they become incapacitated and cannot make their wishes known. Methodical and pragmatic estate planning may also encompass appointing representatives to make critical healthcare decisions and to distribute an estate upon death in a tax-advantaged manner that is beneficial to loved ones.

As with any process, estate planning is not one-size-fits-all. Every asset portfolio and person’s objectives differ. At Philip Gauer Law, I and my team work hard to create customized estate plans around the individual needs and objectives of our clients.

What Documents Are Included In An Estate Plan?

Because estate planning varies depending upon the needs of an individual (or couple), the documents that are included in a comprehensive estate plan can vary, as well. As an experienced Columbus estate planning lawyer with over two decades of legal experience, I can help create an estate plan that is tailored to your needs. I advise clients on a wide variety of estate planning matters, including:

  • Living Wills
  • Last Wills and Testaments
  • Revocable Trusts
  • Irrevocable Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Advance Directives (i.e., healthcare power of attorney)
  • Estate Administration
  • Charitable Planning
  • Probate Planning
  • Probate Administration
  • Estate Administration

What Is An Estate?

An estate includes all assets that belong to an individual upon their death, including (but not limited to):

  • A home and other real property
  • Personal property and physical assets (e.g., cars, furniture, jewelry)
  • Financial assets (e.g., 401Ks, IRAs, bank accounts, stock, life insurance, etc.)
  • Contractual rights and royalties

In addition to assets, an estate is responsible for paying all of a decedent’s debts, which must be resolved before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries.

What is Estate Administration?

Estate administration involves appointing an estate fiduciary (an “executor” or “administrator”), who must collect and inventory the assets of the decedent, pay all legal obligations and debts, and distribute the remaining assets to those persons entitled to inherit.

Preparation of wills goes hand-in-hand with estate administration. The person who prepares a will is referred to as a “testator.” When the testator dies, the person is then referred to as the “decedent.” The decedent’s will makes known his or her wishes with respect to their probate property, i.e., the “decedent’s estate.”

What Is A Living Will or Advance Directive?

A living will (also referred to as an advance directive) specifies what care you would like administered in the event of incapacitation or if a terminal event interferes with your ability to make care decisions for yourself. Having an advance directive can be highly advantageous, as it negates the need for loved ones to agonize over difficult care decisions.

When preparing a will, this is a good time to consider whether the client wishes to have a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. These documents are referred to as “Advance Directives.” If the client so chooses, I include these documents for a small additional fee. The client may also wish to have a Durable General Power of Attorney prepared either separately or at the time the will is being prepared.

What Is A Trust?

Trusts are created to provide privacy, dignity, and protection for an individual’s personal affairs. They allow for a person to have another individual manage assets until that person can do so themself. Trusts are also ideal for avoiding or reducing inheritance or estate taxes.

When executing your estate plan, one party (known as an executor) appoints another person (known as a trustee) to hold title to property and assets for the benefit of third-party beneficiaries. The executor executes paperwork that specifies how, to whom, and when assets are to be distributed. As an added bonus, an executor will not have to go through a court process to transfer an estate since everything is managed by the trust.

What Types of Trusts Are Available in Ohio?

Several types of trusts are available in Ohio, each with its own specific purpose and requirements. The following are some of the most common types of trusts:

  • Revocable Living Trust. This type of trust is created during the lifetime of a grantor (the person who creates the trust) and can be revoked or amended at any time. The grantor transfers assets into the trust, which are then managed by a trustee and distributed to designated beneficiaries.
  • Irrevocable Trust. Unlike revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts cannot be altered after the trust is created. This estate planning tool can allow an individual to transfer assets out of their taxable estate, making income from the assets no longer taxable to the benefactor during their lifetime and nontaxable to the estate upon their death.
  • Testamentary Trust. This type of trust is created through a grantor’s will and only takes effect after death. The trust is funded by assets that are transferred from the grantor’s estate.
  • Special Needs Trust. Designed to help individuals with disabilities maintain their eligibility for government benefits while still providing for their needs, a special needs trusts can be highly beneficial and bring significant peace of mind for individuals with special needs beneficiaries.
  • Charitable Trusts. This type of trust is designed to provide financial support to a charitable organization or cause. The trust assets are managed by a trustee and distributed to the charity in accordance with a trust agreement.
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT). Life insurance proceeds typically avoid Ohio probate, but for certain wealthy individuals, estate taxes may be assessed on life insurance proceeds. An ILIT can be used to exclude life insurance proceeds from a taxable estate.
  • Spendthrift Trust. In some cases, a beneficiary may be financially irresponsible, leading them to spend significant sums of money if safeguards are not in place. Under a spendthrift trust, a beneficiary (and their creditors) do not have direct access or control of the trust assets. Instead, the trustee has discretion to decide how the trust assets will be distributed. For example, the trustee may put a cap on the amount of money distributed each year.

Will A Trust Protect Me From Creditors?

Whether a trust can protect an individual from creditors depends on several factors, including the type of trust created, Ohio law, and the timing and circumstances of the transfer of assets into the trust. For example, if an irrevocable trust is created and assets are transferred into the trust, those assets may be protected from creditors. This is because the assets are no longer considered to be owned by the individual, instead they are owned by the trust.

Conversely, if a revocable trust is established, the assets in the trust may still be classified as the grantor’s property and therefore may not be protected from creditors. Further, certain types of creditors, including the IRS and Ohio tax authorities, may still be able to reach assets in trusts, even if those assets are protected from other creditors.

Setting up a trust can be challenging; thus, it is recommended that individuals consult with an experienced Columbus trust lawyer who can help determine whether a trust can provide protections from creditors in their specific situation.

Do I Need a Trust?

Maybe not. Whether or not you need a trust in Ohio depends on your personal circumstances and objectives. The following are a few factors to consider:

  • Estate Planning Objectives. A trust may be beneficial in an individual has specific estate planning goals, such as avoiding probate, minimizing taxes, or providing for a loved one after death.
  • Size of an Estate. If you have a large estate, a trust may be a beneficial tool to help manage assets and provide for beneficiaries after your death. However, if an individual has a modest estate, a trust may not be appropriate.
  • Types of Assets. If you have certain types of assets, such as real estate or business interests, a trust may be advantageous for managing those assets and for passing them to heirs.
  • Privacy Concerns. If privacy is of concern, a trust may help keep affairs private by avoiding probate, which is a public process.
  • Health Concerns. If you or a loved one has concerns about health or are planning for long-term care, a trust may be helpful in protecting your assets and providing for your care needs.

Trusts can be complex legal instruments, and they are not appropriate for everyone. If you are interested in learning whether a trust may be beneficial to your individual situation, I invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation.

Do I Need A Will If I Have A Trust?

Even if an individual has a trust, a will should still be part of their estate planning. The following are just a few reasons why:

  • Pour-over Will. A pour-over will is a type of will that directs any assets not already in a trust at the time of death to be transferred into a trust, helping ensure that assets are properly distributed.
  • Guardianship Designation. If an individual has minor children, a will can be utilized to designate a guardian to care for the children if you or your spouse passes away.
  • Asset Distribution. While a trust can be a powerful estate planning tool, there may be some assets that are not transferred into a trust during a grantor’s lifetime. A will can help direct the distribution of those residual assets after death.
  • Probate. In Ohio, even if you have a trust, some assets may still need to go through probate. A will can help ensure that the probate process is streamlined and that your assets are properly distributed.

How Much Does An Experienced Columbus Estate Planning Attorney Cost or Charge?

As a Columbus estate planning attorney with over two decades of experience, I enjoy estate planning because of my role in bringing peace of mind to a client by helping them decide how their assets should be distributed upon death. Many people put off thinking about these things, but once they decide to deal with making the decisions, they always seem to experience a great sense of relief and comfort.

Generally, after speaking with a prospective client, I try to quote a flat fee for the estate planning documents. Estate administration is handled on an hourly-rate basis, but after meeting with a prospective client, I work to provide an upfront estimate.

Call 614-451-8228 Today to Schedule A Free Consultation With Experienced Columbus Estate Planning Attorney Philip Gauer.

There is nothing like the peace that having a solid will and strategic estate plan can provide. If you or a loved one is ready to start planning for the future, we invite you to call Philip Gauer Law to schedule a free consultation. As an experienced Columbus estate planning attorney, I can discuss your objectives, explain your legal options, and diligently work to create an estate plan that protects your best interests and family.