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Important Elements of an Estate Plan

Estate planning encompasses a variety of important legal decisions that need to be made when you become incapable of making them on your own or pass away. Here are some of the top elements to include as part of your estate plans in Troy:

Durable Power of Attorney

Your durable power of attorney is responsible for making necessary healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This could include whether you will be placed on life-support if your health deteriorates or how your expenses will continue to be paid.


Your will describes how your assets and property should be distributed when you die. However, many people opt to put their assets in joint tenancy or trust to avoid probate. This allows for less scrutiny over the decedent’s estate and ensures the decedent’s property and assets are distributed as the decedent intended.

Once your will is put through probate, the court will be responsible for handling the distribution of any property or assets described within the will.


Creating a trust is an excellent way to avoid going through probate. To build a trust, you must assign a trustee and beneficiaries. The trustee will be responsible for handling the administration of the trust.

Examples of trusts could include irrevocable trusts or revocable living trusts. Trusts are one of the top ways for estates to avoid taxes, capitalize on asset protection, and ensure beneficiaries access to assets as the grantor intended.

Estate and Trust Administration

At times, clients request that our firm serve as Executor, Trustee, or as Administrator of an estate plan. Our attorneys in Troy help ensure debts are paid, assets are distributed to beneficiaries, and income and estate tax documents are filed as necessary when selected as an estate or trust administrator.

Fiduciary and Probate Litigation

It is not unusual for the contents of an individual’s estate plan to be called into question by that person’s friends and family members.

Our firm is here to advocate for trustees, executors, beneficiaries, and administrators alike when disputes arise.

Asset Preservation Planning

Asset preservation planning is a valuable tool to help protect you and your family from having your investments, assets, or property seized to pay for items that do not benefit you or your family.

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What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves deciding how your assets and property will be distributed to your designated beneficiaries when you die. It allows you to make crucial decisions now that you may not be able to make later.

For instance, if your health is rapidly declining, your estate plans can direct your affairs in advance.

Estate planning can also help eliminate or reduce tax implications arising from the transfer or sale of property or businesses.

With a thorough estate plan in place, you can plan for your funeral and burial, protect your children’s future, and protect your assets from being seized by creditors.

Who Needs Estate Plans?

Everyone needs an estate plan, even if you do not have a sizeable net worth or considerable assets.

Estate plans allow you to:

  • Assign legal guardians for minor children
  • Make essential healthcare decisions that may need to be made if there is a health emergency
  • Describe how your estate should be administered upon your death

Completing your estate plan should be a top priority to ensure your wishes are carried out as intended.

Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Estate planning errors can often be costly. If you hope to avoid putting your family through additional legal issues and stress after your death, avoid these top estate planning mistakes:

Failure to Update Estate Plans

It is vital to update your estate plan when significant life changes occur. If you or a family member gets married, divorced, has children, comes into money, or has another significant life change, it is essential to consider these changes and update your estate plans accordingly.

Failure to Protect Your Assets

Many tax implications occur when someone passes away. Protecting your assets and beneficiaries from these tax consequences is crucial, or they could wind up owing the IRS or overpaying in taxes.

Issues With Witness Signatures

Electronic signatures are often challenged in court. It is crucial to make sure the proper parties are selected as witnesses. Get an estate planning lawyer working for you. Your lawyer will ensure all necessary witnesses are present for the signing, so witness signatures cannot be disputed in court.

How an Estate Planning Attorney at Dungan & LeFevre Can Help

Our estate planning attorneys in Troy at Dungan & LeFevre are here to help you craft well-thought-out estate plans. We will be by your side every step to ensure you take the necessary steps to protect your assets and beneficiaries and avoid tax implications wherever possible.

Clarify Confusing Legal Jargon

Estate planning involves complex legal matters. Asset administration, trustees, grantors, healthcare proxies, wills, durable power of attorneys, and other areas of the estate planning process can be particularly complex due to confusing legal jargon.

However, we will ensure you gain insight into how these legal matters work so you can craft estate plans that align with your goals.

Make Recommendations and Give Legal Advice

Sometimes, making these decisions takes work. Our firm is here for you when you need a legal advocate who will prioritize your best interests. When you hire us, we can give you legal advice, make recommendations, and offer suggestions throughout the planning process so you can set yourself and your family up for success.

Offer Support and Guidance Throughout Your Estate Planning Journey

Handling estate planning can initially seem morbid. However, it is necessary if you hope to provide for yourself and your family for years to come. With our estate planning attorneys backing you up, we can help you solidify your goals, designate beneficiaries, and plan for the future.

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Estate Planning FAQs

When should I start my estate plan?

Now is the best time to start your estate plan. Many people wait for significant life changes to create their estate plan. However, since you never know what tomorrow will bring, getting your estate plan started now is crucial.

When creating your estate plan, it is important to consider tax and inheritance laws, divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, marriage, and other factors. You can also make changes to your estate plan as these life changes occur, so they are always up-to-date and in line with your current wishes for how your estate should be handled when you pass away.

Will my estate need to go through probate court in Ohio?

In most states, your estate will need to go through probate. However, your estate planning lawyer at Dungan & LeFevre can take steps to help avoid it.

By creating a revocable or irrevocable trust, you can place your assets into the trust. The contents will be distributed to the beneficiaries as you intended without going through probate.

Alternatively, adding a beneficiary to your bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets can be passed directly to the beneficiary upon your passing.

Real estate can also be transferred via a transfer on death affidavit, so the property does not have to go through probate.

What happens if you die without a will in Ohio?

If someone dies without a will, it is known as "dying intestate." Ohio has intestate laws that describe how the decedent's property and assets will be distributed upon their passing without a will.

It is ideal to avoid this situation altogether, so that you decide to whom your assets should be distributed, instead of the State of Ohio telling you how the assets will be distributed.

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