Category Archives: Estate Planning

What’s the Best Way to Give My Stuff Away When I Die?

By Attorney Ted Brown

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 1.34.22 PMThere is no doubt about it: Americans have a lot of stuff. Surveys consistently show that of all the Americans that have a garage, the majority of them cannot fit a vehicle inside it due to the fact that it is dedicated exclusively to the storage of stuff. “Stuff” can be almost anything, from furniture, family heirlooms, collections, clothing, tools, valuables or all those things earmarked for that future garage sale.

The trouble is what happens to all that stuff when we die? Most of the conflicts that arises in the estates that I handle deal with that stuff. Heirs generally don't argue over the money or the land but they frequently argue over who gets the stuff.

Therefore, if you have stuff that is important to you, it is very important to address it as part of your estate planning. For example, if you have a trust you want to make sure that your personal property is properly assigned to that trust. You can then provided specific instructions about who gets what within the language of the trust itself.

Specificity is always a good rule of thumb. As much specific instruction that you can put in writing about who gets what, where that item is located and how to tell it apart from the other stuff can go a long way to smooth out any potential disputes. It is important that these instructions are written in a way that someone who doesn't know anything about these items can read and understand it. These instructions should be signed and dated by you at the bottom of the document.

If you do not have any specific wishes then it is important to provide a method by which disputes are to be settled. For example, items are to be sold and the proceeds divided if the heirs cannot agree. Or perhaps heirs can choose items by “drawing straws.” Use your imagination.

In most cases, when a resolution process is provided along with carefully written distribution instructions, it will usually be followed and can save the family years of conflict and heartbreak. Your stuff is an important part of your formal estate planning, particularly if you believe as we do that “it should be easier for those who are left behind”. Please be sure to find experienced elder law attorneys to help you with the process.

 

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Don’t Try DIY Estate Planning

By: Chris Meyer

 

    Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.17.43 PMWe live in a world today where we are encouraged to “do-it-yourself”. In some scenarios, doing something yourself can be a rewarding and cost-efficient experience. However, this is most certainly not the case with estate planning. With the ongoing advancements in technology, certain websites are seemingly making it easier and easier to create your own legal documents such as a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, and LLC. In theory, this sounds as though this would be a quick and easy way to complete your estate planning on your own. However, this is actually not the case. One main reason that do-it-yourself estate planning is usually not the best idea is that everybody's situation is different. What might make sense for your family does not always make sense for someone else's family. With a do-it-yourself Will or Trust, you are given a “one-size-fits-all” template and simply told to fill in the blanks. Estate planning is not that simple since everyone has a different amount of assets and different types of accounts, vehicles, property, etc. that compile their entire estate.

 

    Another main reason that do-it-yourself estate planning doesn't work is that there is no type of recommendation as far as what will work best for you. In attempting to complete your estate planning on your own, self-help website fail to answer certain critical questions. These questions may include but are not limited to: How are your assets currently being held? Are you a veteran? What type of insurance do you have, if any? How should you decide who should be your Trustee, Executor, Power of Attorney, etc.? Would a Trust or a Will make more sense in your situation? What type of Trust should you have? 

 

    By establishing your estate planning with Cooper, Adel & Associates you are ensuring that your estate plan will be handled with a sense of compassion and expertise that you simply cannot get through self-help estate planning venues. If you, or a loved one are interested in learning more about protecting assets for your children and other loved ones, please give us a call for a free one hour consultation with either Attorney Thom Cooper or Attorney Mitchell Adel at 1-800-798-5297. 

 

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Congratulations Jon Stevenson!

We'd like to congratulate Jon Stevenson who will be starting law school at Capital University. Good luck Jon!

 

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Ohio On The Verge of Marriage Equality? Maybe

By Attorney Keith Stevens

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 3.17.49 PMLast year, Judge Timothy S. Black of the Southern District Court of Ohio (the federal trial court) ruled that Ohio must recognize a validly-performed out-of-state same sex marriage and list the name of a deceased man's husband on his death certificate as his spouse. Obergefell v. Wymyslo, 962 F. Supp. 2d 968 (S.D. Ohio 2013). The holding was specific to that couple and did not apply to Ohio's statutory and constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage as a whole.

A few weeks ago, Judge Black went further. Hearing the petitions of four same-sex couples, all legally married in states that allow same-sex marriage, Judge Black not only ruled that the state Bureau of Vital Statistics must list both spouses on the birth certificates of their children, he also found that Ohio's statutory and constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage were completely unconstitutional on their face and therefore invalid. Henry v. Himes, Case No. 1:14-cv-129 (S.D. Ohio 2014).

Does this mean that Ohio will start performing same-sex marriages next week? No, and it is important for us to realize that this ruling is limited. The decision repeatedly says that it does not require the state to perform same-sex marriages, simply that it cannot make such marriages illegal and, more specifically, it must recognize validly-performed out of state same-sex marriages.

The impact of the decision is also limited for now. Judge Black stayed broader application of his decision beyond the plaintiffs pending appeal to the appellate court and, possibly, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Ohio's federal districts are part of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, along with Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. All four states in the Sixth Circuit have appeals from lower court decisions requiring recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages or invalidating state constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriages pending.

This decision is part of an increasing trend from the Sixth Circuit and beyond, to states such as Virginia, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. These states and others have taken the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Windsor last year, a decision which required that the federal government recognize legally-performed same-sex marriages, and applied the same arguments and rationales to invalidate state prohibitions on same-sex marriage. More states have similar decisions pending.

If this decision stands, there will be an immediate impact in a variety of state benefits and processes. Estate planners in particular will see changes in their major areas of practice:

  1. Probate courts will be required to give equal treatment to a same-sex spouse as to an opposite-sex spouse, including protections against disinheritance, recognition as legal heir, and access to more streamlined versions of the probate process.

  2. Medicaid will be required to take both spouse's assets into account when determining eligibility for one, which may result in a benefit (the sick spouse would be able to transfer assets to the healthy spouse as part of qualification), or a downside (the healthy spouse's assets will also be considered).

  3. If the Ohio estate tax returns in a similar form as it existed prior to January 1, 2013, this will allow for the transfer of wealth from one spouse to another at the first death without taxation and would open new estate tax planning avenues to the couples.

Beyond the civil rights importance of this decision, if it stands it also will impact estate and tax planning. Same sex couples are urged to reach out to their legal advisors to determine what their next steps should be.

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Why A Trust Needs to Be Funded

By Bethany Smith

Your trust has been signed so everything is now probated-protected and can be put in the drawer and forgotten – correct? False. This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to the creation of a trust. A signed trust serves no purpose if there are no assets funded to it.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 2.20.39 PMWhen we talking about funding a trust what does that mean? Funding a trust involves retitling assets to the name of the trust in order to avoid probate. For example if a checking account is held in a your individual name with no beneficiaries identified, then it will have to go through the time consuming and sometimes expensive process of being probated with the court. However if the same account has been titled to your trust, then it will avoid probate and follow the distribution you set up in your trust.

Therefore if you have a turst it is important to remember when it comes to funding your trust is to properly title new assets to your trust so they are also protected from probate.   

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Leaving Money to Minors

By Attorney Dan Vu

If you are a parent or a grandparent of a minor, and you wish to leave money to the minor, there are a few things you need to consider. First, a minor cannot manage their own inheritance. They will need a custodian or guardian appointed. If you have not chosen one, when the time comes, the courts will choose one for you. But like anything that goes through the court system, there are problems: you will likely end up paying a significant amount of attorney's fees, and of course, the court-appointed guardian could end up being someone you would never have chosen. So if you wish to leave something to a minor, make sure you appoint the custodian that will manage the inheritance until the minor is of age.

Ohio has adopted the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA). This allows you to easily name a custodian to manage, lets say, the bank CD you plan on leaving to the minor child. You will simply have to notify your bank in advance that the CD, upon your death, should be payable to “John Smith, custodian for Jane Smith.”

However, in many cases we encourage our clients to take it one step further and not rely solely on the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. One reason is that the law only applies to minors until they are reach age 21. That means at age 21 the child now has full access to the account – what might they do with the money? How about going directly to the nearest dealership with the fastest, most expensive cars. The State may believe that a 21 year old can make sound financial decisions, but many would agree that most 21 year olds do not!

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 1.58.58 PMSo instead of relying on the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act, we often recommend that you use a trust. You can create a trust in which you not only name the trustee but also how that money may be used when they get full access to their inheritance. For example, your trust could state that John Smith shall be trustee for the benefit of Jane Smith, until Jane reaches the age of 25 (or age 30 or whatever age you think is appropriate), and furthermore, before that age, the trustee shall only use the funds for Jane Smith's health and education. You can also build additional benefits into the trust by making sure that the inheritance you leave is protected from future creditors, bankruptcy, and divorce.

If you plan on leaving an inheritance to minors, let us know, we may be able to suggest a better way.

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

What happens to you if something happens to your attorney?

By Kathy Cooper

How many attorneys work in your attorney's law firm?

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 12.35.40 PMWe see many clients who are left in the lurch when their attorney gets out of the law business due to death, disability or retirement. Your attorney may have a plan to sell their business to another attorney. How do you know if you will click with this new attorney? Do they have the experience you expect? Worse yet, your attorney may have no plan at all. Where does that leave you?

At Cooper, Adel & Associates, we have had a succession plan for several years. We believe that it is your right to have the peace of mind that comes with a firm that has a plan to support you in the future. We know – and you have the opportunity to know – who you will be dealing with in the future. You can meet them now – it won't be a surprise if something happens to Thom or Mitch so that they are unable to continue working on your case.

So, don't worry, we won't leave you in the lurch. We have a plan to be here for your future.

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

What is a TOD deed?

By Tricia Applegate

Using a transfer-on-death deed is a lot like using a payable-on-death (POD) designation for a bank account. You name one or more beneficiaries now, who then inherit the property at your death without the need for probate court proceedings.

To name a beneficiary, you use a special kind of deed, one that's tailored to the law of your state. The deed looks pretty much like any other real estate deed; it names the current owner, describes the property exactly, and names the person the property will be transferred to at your death. But a TOD deed contains an additional statement, making it clear that the deed does not take effect until the current owner's death.

The beneficiary you name to inherit the property doesn't have any legal right to it until your death—or, if you own the property with your spouse or someone else, until the last surviving owner dies. The beneficiary doesn't have to sign, acknowledge, or even be told about the deed.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 12.30.44 PMIn the deed, you can also name an contingent beneficiary who will inherit the real estate if your first choice isn't alive at your death. If you don't name an alternate, and your first choice doesn't survive you, state law determines who will inherit the property – usually this requires a probate proceeding.

After you've signed the deed, you must record it with the local county land records office before your death. Otherwise, it won't be valid.

You keep complete ownership of and control over the property while you're alive. You pay the taxes on it, and it's not protected from your creditors. You can sell it, give it away, or mortgage it. Because the TOD deed does not make a gift of the property, there's no need to concern yourself with federal gift tax.

Later, if you change your mind about who you want to inherit the property, you are not locked in. You can revoke the TOD deed or simply record another TOD deed leaving the property to someone else.

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Your Estate Plan Should Reduce Your Legislative Risk, Not Increase It

By Senior Associate Attorney, Dan Vu

Too often estate planners do not consider their client's legislative risk. In other words, they plan without consideration to the very high probability that the current rules will change. In Washington and Columbus, every new bill passed by the legislature is touted as the new permanent law of the land, but in reality it is only “permanent” until the next time they decide to change it. So if your plan does not provide the flexibility for the changing rules, you can actually be in a worse position than you would without any plan.

Let's review an example that just recently occurred in Ohio. Governor Kasich was able to defeat the odds stacked against him when he was able to repeal the Ohio Estate Tax, effective January 1, 2013. Few thought this would actually occur, since Ohio, like most states, is facing budget constraints. For many Ohioans, this law made their current estate plan obsolete. Tradition revocable trust planning contained provisions that were meant to shelter the estate from the Ohio Estate Tax. These types of trusts were called A/B Trusts. But now that the Ohio Estate Tax has been repealed these these older trusts are not only not helpful but they can even now be hurtful. For example, an A/B Trust would now have a less favorable capital gains treatment than having no trust at all!

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.37.12 PMHowever, just as it is not a good idea to keep an obsolete trust, it is also not a good idea to pretend that the repeal of the Ohio Estate Tax is permanent. A trust should be flexible. We have for many years used “Spousal Options Trusts.” These trusts allow our clients to utilize the traditional benefits of an A/B trust if an estate tax is in effect at the time of death. If there is no Ohio Estate Tax at death, the same trust can instead opt into obtaining favorable capital gains treatment and ignore the estate tax provisions.

All of our trusts have similar types of built-in flexibility. For example, our Heritage Trust is a trust that allows you to leave to your children a protected IRA “stretched” over their individual lifetime. But since we know that the IRA rules may change, it has built-in provision that allows for tax changes to be made even after you and your spouse have long passed away.

So, of course, not planning at all is not the answer. You just need a plan that builds in flexibility so that as the laws change you can always avail yourself to the advantages that the new laws provide and protect yourself from the disadvantages that new laws might impose.

How can you tell if your plan has built-in flexibility? Consider meeting with an experienced elder law attorney for a review.

 

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.

Do I Need an Estate Plan if I’m Single with No Children?

By Jill Besl

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 8.35.27 AMMost people don't give it a second thought: “Who will take care of me in my old age?”, “Who will see to my needs?”, “Who will see to it my end-of-life wishes are fulfilled?” Your children of course! Obviously that's not the reason we have children in the first place, but knowing you'll have a support system in your sunset years is a comforting thought. But for the growing number of people who have made the decision to remain single and/or childless, those same questions may incur a certain level of anxiety.

Common concerns of those without kids are similar to those with kids: not wasting resources at the end of life, dying a natural death and not being a burden on anyone. But who will carry out those wishes should you become incapacitated or die if you don't have kids? Many will turn to nieces, nephews, cousins or even close friends. However many questions still remain: How will they know (or remember) my wishes? How can they pay for my end-of-life expenses? How can I be assured I will be permitted to die a natural death and not be kept alive on life support indefinitely?

Proper estate planning can provide peace-of-mind that these questions and others are answered and wishes fulfilled. Those who are single and/or childless are in need of Estate Planning as much as, if not more so than those with immediate family to care for them. At Cooper, Adel and Associates, we can help you achieve that peace-of-mind. Call us today at 1-800-798-5297 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.   

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DISCLAIMER – Every case is different because every case is different. This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor. Every person's situation is different and requires an attorney to review the situation personally with you.
No attorney-client relationship is created by this site.
The use of the Internet, this blog or email for communication with this firm or any individual member of this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before we represent any client, the client and the attorney will sign a written retainer agreement. If you do not have a written, signed retainer agreement with us, we are not representing you and will not be taking any action on your behalf.



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