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Ohio snowbirds: Make that estate plan before flying south

Halloween is almost here, and Thanksgiving isn't far behind. Then once Christmas passes, it's time for countless Ohio residents – the "snowbirds" – to fly south for the winter.

But before you hop in the car and head to Florida, Arizona, South Carolina or another warm-weather state, it would be prudent to make sure your estate plan is in order. You can have a worry-free vacation if you know that all your paperwork is in order should something occur.

Here are five steps you should take before you take that trip.

Make a will

Don't leave it up to the state to decide how to split up your assets. Your home, your possessions or your money could wind up being parceled out by a judge in a way you wouldn't have chosen.

Verify your beneficiaries

Having a will is one thing, but some of your assets are not controlled by your will. Your retirement accounts, such an IRA or a 401(k), or your life insurance policies are distributed based on the beneficiaries you designate. Since the time you filled out the beneficiary forms, things could have changed. You may have divorced or married, or your children might be old enough now to share in the distribution.

Designate a guardian for your children

The stereotypical snowbird is a grandparent who doesn't have young children, but this is good advice for a parent of any age who decides to take an adult winter vacation to a warm-weather paradise. Make sure you know who will raise your children in case something happens to you.

Prepare an advance directive

In case you become ill while away from home or have an accident, someone needs to be empowered to make decisions that you would want. You should have a health care power of attorney to go along with the advance directive. Without this paperwork, a court might have to appoint a guardian to look out for your best interests.

Prepare a general power of attorney

A health care power of attorney does just that: looks after your health care. A durable general power of attorney allows someone you designate to deal with your assets and other important matters if you can't.

Don't leave anything to chance when you're away from home. Instead, an Ohio attorney who works with estate plans can help you travel without a care in the world.

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