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Estate planning and the ancillary probate process

To many Ohioans, estate planning is nothing more than creating a simple will that equally divides their assets amongst their children. Although this is a commonly utilized estate planning strategy, it may be insufficient to meet an individual's needs. Failing to adequately address all legal issues pertaining to one's estate can lead to a long, drawn out and even contested distribution process.

This is often seen when individuals neglect to consider the assets that they own in another state when creating or modifying their estate plan. Because assets are subjected to the laws of the state in which they reside, an individual who passes away with assets in multiple states will have to proceed with the probate process in each state. This is known as ancillary probate, and it can be costly and time consuming. Additionally, those individuals who die without a will may wind up with differing lines of succession in each state because the laws may vary. This may mean that an individual's out of state assets may fall into the hands of someone who was never intended to inherit in the first place.

Fortunately, ancillary probate can be avoided. The best way to do so is to place assets that are owned out of state into a living trust. These trusts bypass the probate process regardless of where the assets in that trust are held. Another option is to retitle out of state assets so that they are jointly owned. Here, upon the death of the property's owner the asset automatically becomes solely owned by the other co-owner.

Estate planning can be as simple or as complicated as an individual wants. However, the best estate plans are crafted with care and an attention to detail. Only then can an individual ensure that he or she is utilizing the law to his or her estate's advantage. To learn more about how to estate plan in a way that fully protects assets, beneficiaries and heirs, Ohioans should consult with a legal professional of their choosing.

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