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Estate planning strategies beyond a will

While standard wills and trusts might work for many Ohio residents, these generic tools might not be the cheapest or most efficient way to deal with inheritance. In terms of estate planning, effort and attention to detail often pay off with lower stress, reduced probate costs and peace of mind.

Wills are easily contested and tend to enter probate court. This is especially costly for individuals with a higher net worth. Trusts might reduce the size of an estate, and personal gifts could provide a tax-free windfall for beneficiaries while a grantor is alive. Some assets are more difficult to handle with these tools than others, requiring alternate methods.

A New York Times article goes into detail on one common stumbling block in estate plans: distributing real estate holdings. The article discusses three main alternatives:

  • Setting a revocable trust the grantor might change if necessary
  • Forming an irrevocable trust to transfer property to beneficiaries, reducing estate value
  • Establishing a special trust for high-value homes to reduce tax burdens

The article suggests that selecting the best option might require predicting how beneficiaries might handle the property. 

An article in U.S. News and World Report investigates charitable donations, another common issue in estate plans. There are, of course, charitable trusts and foundations, but the focus of the U.S. News article is donor-advised funds. These financial products are offered by investment or wealth management companies as a way to store assets for later disbursement to a charitable cause. In the context of estate planning, this might offer a way to delay certain less-essential decisions, such as which charities should benefit from an estate's donations.

As mentioned in both the Times and the U.S. News article, every estate planning option has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Careful attention is often required to maximize the former and minimize the latter.

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