It's Never Too Late To Plan!

If you are like many Americans, you may have put off your estate planning for years.  Now that you are getting older, you think that it is too late to get your plans in order.  The truth is, it's never too late to plan.  Every little bit of planning can help your loved ones manage your affairs both at the end of your life, and after your death.  Here are a few tips for quick planning that can save time, energy, and money for your loved ones:

1. Add joint account holders or make bank and investment accounts transferable or payable on death.  If you have a trusted friend or loved one to whom you would like money held in bank or investment accounts to go after your death, you might want to add that individual as joint account holder.  A joint account holder can handle your financial affairs should you become incapable of doing so.  Upon your death, the surviving joint account holder will take over the account without the involvement of a probate court.   If you prefer to keep your account in your name during your lifetime, you can designate an individual to whom the account should "transfer on death" or be "payable on death."  This quick planning technique can prevent your assets from being tied up in probate proceedings and allow a smooth transfer of your assets after death.

2. Make your real estate assets transferable upon death.  Indiana and Ohio have differing, but effective tools for making sure that your real property seamlessly transfers to the individual or individuals you choose upon your death.  In Indiana, a deed (called a Transfer on Death Deed) can be recorded during your lifetime to designate a beneficiary to whom your property should transfer upon your death.  After you pass away, the property will immediately transfer to the beneficiary upon the filing of a death certificate and an affidavit with the county recorder.  In Ohio, a Transfer on Death Affidavit can be recorded with the county recorder during your lifetime to achieve the same result.  Just as in Indiana, the recording of a death certificate and an affidavit with the proper Ohio county recorder will seamlessly transfer real property to the beneficiary selected in the TOD Affidavit.  As mentioned, a TOD Deed or TOD Affidavit cannot be created after the death of the property owner.  In both circumstances, property transfers are simplified as they occur outside of probate proceedings.

3. Establish joint vehicle ownership or designate a transfer on death beneficiary.  By holding title to your vehicle jointly with another individual, the vehicle becomes the sole property of the survivor upon your death.  You can also designate a beneficiary to take ownership of your vehicle upon your death by utilizing a transfer on death designation on your certificate of title.  Upon your death, your vehicle title will transfer directly to this beneficiary after just a few simple steps without the involvement of a probate court.

It is always best to plan ahead and be prepared for the unexpected.  However, if time is short, making a few quick changes can prevent major headaches for your loved ones down the road.