Category Archives: Probate

The Hidden Costs of Estate Administration

By Mary Roberts

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.08.00 AMMost people have no idea that serving as an executor or administrator of an estate is very time-consuming and burdensome. There are some “obvious costs” such as attorney fees, court filing fees and commissions for the executor but there are also some not-so-obvious expenses associated with administering and closing an estate.

Here are some of the hidden costs:

  1. Time. Closing an estate takes time. The compensation for being an executor may not be worth the time it takes for appointments with the attorney, collecting the assets and preparing an inventory, signing of documents, preparing an accounting and tying up loose ends.

  2. Will contests. If all beneficiaries sign off on the accounting, the process may be fairly simple but if a beneficiary contests, then thousands of dollars and many hours of work may be spent with the months dragging by while fighting the Will contest.

  3. Minors. If a beneficiary is a minor or considered incompetent, closing the estate can be more complicated.

  4. Overseas beneficiaries. If a beneficiary lives in another country, extra money and time may need to be spent on translations or notarizing documents.

  5. Property in other states. The executor may have to open an ancillary probate if the deceased has real estate in another state.

  6. Securing the property. Locks may need to be changed or a security system installed to protect the property.

  7. All estates are different. All estates have different assets, different beneficiaries and different sets of circumstances.

  8. Bond. It is necessary for a fiduciary (the person responsible for administering the estate) to post bond if there is no Will.

Fiduciary duties are extremely serious responsibilities that can be time-consuming and costly. At Cooper, Adel & Associates, we can assist you in reducing this burden for your loved ones when you pass. Please call us at 1-800-798-5297 for a FREE consultation.

What Are The First Steps To Take When A Loved One Dies?

By Steve Wright

When a loved one passes away, it is an emotional time that you should spend with family and friends. Unfortunately, here are a few tasks that will require your attention soon after the death if you are the estate representative.

An important first step you must take as the estate representative is to locate any legal estate documents that the deceased may have had created, particularly any trusts and/or wills. These documents will play a fundamental role in disseminating the estate. Also, you will need at least one certified death certificate. It's a good idea to have at least three. Most financial institutions will require documentation that you are the estate representative and a copy of the certified death certificate in order to release information to you.

Next, you will want to begin compiling the assets and liabilities the decedent left behind. A good starting point is to check their mail.

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The mail will usually contain updated bank statements and statements from other financial institutions such as mutual funds, stocks and bonds. These statements will start you on the right path of determining what assets there are and what to you will need to do with them. In addition to gathering financial statements for each account that the decedent had, you will also want to seek information on other assets such as real estate, insurance, and titled vehicles.

Another good step to take is to contact each institution that the decedent received any type of income from, such as Social Security, STRS, or the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is important so that you can avoid future repayment requests and it will also inform you of any funds or other benefits that may be due the estate.

Finally, contact the decedent's estate planning attorney if they had one. Often, the law office who prepared the estate plan can provide you, as the estate representative, with invaluable guidance during this 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.

Does my spouse automatically inherit my car when I die?

By: Jon Stevenson

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.23.38 AMThe short answer in Ohio is yes. According to Ohio's BMV website, bmv.ohio.gov, your spouse will be entitled to up to two vehicles in your name under the surviving spouse law. To transfer the vehicles, your spouse will have to make a trip to the Title Office and apply for a surviving spouse certificate of title. The BMV warns that some Title Offices will require a certified copy of the death certificate so it's a good idea to call ahead for requirements.

While the above will apply to most Ohioans vehicles, there are some vehicles to which this law does not apply. The following is a list of qualification for a vehicle covered under the surviving spouse law:

  • The vehicle/vehicles cannot exceed $40,000 in value.
  • The vehicle/vehicles must be passenger vehicle, ¾ ton truck or smaller, or a motorcycle.
  • Commercial vehicles do not qualify
  • Motor Homes do not qualify
  • Recreational vehicles do not qualify

So whether you finally got that “arrest-me-red” sports car after the last kid left the nest, a pick up truck capable of towing Mt. Everest or the latest and greatest in RV technology (complete with home theater and 5 lane bowling alley) you're going to want to do some planning to insure your spouse won't be lost in the limbo of probate.

The question we have not answered here is what happens to the vehicles when your spouse dies? That can take more planning, particularly if you have a classic car you wish to keep within your family. Call us to discuss a strategy.

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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.

Will Your Death Cause Your Family Distress?

By Jill Besl

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.15.04 AMHeiress Huguetta Clark's death in 2011 at the age of 104 spawned numerous lawsuits that have dragged on for years. At her death, Clark's estate totaled more than $307 million and included an original Renoir, a Stradivarius violin and an original edition of Paradise Lost. She had no husband, children or siblings; only distant relatives with whom she had little contact.

At her passing, two wills were found. The first will, signed March 7, 2005, left everything to her distant relatives but this will had the word “revoked” handwritten and a line drawn through the first page. The second will, signed just a few weeks later on April 5, 2005, cut out the relatives, stating: I intentionally make no provision in this my last will and testament for any members of my family, whether on my maternal or paternal side, having had minimal contacts with them over the years.” Instead, the new will left $1 million to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life after a serious bout of skin cancer, $100,000 to her personal physician, gifts to the caretakers of her various properties as well as gifts to her lawyers and accountants. Her California property went to a foundation that was to be established to promote the arts and her long-time daytime nurse received Clark's $1.7 million doll collection and 60% of the estate.

It's certainly not difficult to figure out what came next. The relatives contested the April 2005 will, claiming that Clark had been coerced into excluding them from her estate. After years of legal back-and-forth, a tentative settlement was reached in September 2013. Under the terms, the relatives would divide $34.5 million among themselves and many of the other bequests from the second will would not be honored. Then, to complicate matters further, in January 2014, Geraldine Coffey, Clarks night-duty nurse for 20 years would not agree to the settlement. The attorneys for the estate argue that Coffey caused Clark distress by pressuring her for money.

The drama that has persisted for the past three years since Huguetta Clark's death and has signs of continuing. It could have easily been avoided with the proper estate planning documents. As Florida Certified Elder Law Attorney Joseph S. Karp so aptly summed it up: “Multi-millionaires or not, all of us should take steps to ensure that in death, our wishes are carried out and those we care about most are protected.” Seek counsel from an experienced elder law attorney to make sure your family – or those who you wish to receive your assets – understand what you want at your death.

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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.

A Cautionary Tale of DIY Estate Planning

By Attorney Ted Brown

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 9.47.36 AMI recently came across another example of self-help estate planning gone drastically wrong. In this case, Mom was in her 80′s and owned a family farm and a life-savings of conservative investments. She wanted her estate to be divided equally among her four children but wanted to make sure her two sons, who were farmers, got the farm.

So, to keep things simple, she deeded the farm to her two sons, and created a “simple” will leaving everything else (the cash investments) to her two daughters. She used a national legal self-help service to get templates of the necessary documents and was satisfied she had done everything she needed to do while avoiding the costly fees of an estate planning attorney.

However, when Mom passed away things were not nearly as simple as she had hoped. The will that she had prepared was not valid because it did not comply with the complexities of Ohio law. Therefore, her plan to divide the investments among her daughters failed. Not only did her assets have to go through the hassle and expense of probate, but since there was no valid will, her assets were divided according to state law.

This gave the investments equally among all four children. Since she had already given the farm to her sons, they ended up with a larger share and were under no obligation to even things out as mom had intended. However, it turned out that they would need the extra cash to cover the large capital gains tax burden that was created when mom gifted the farm to them while she was alive.

I see cases like this all too often. Estate planning is one of the most important decisions you will make and it is always best to consult a professional who specializes in that area. The legal fee paid to ensure that your estate is in order, up to date with state law and tailored to the specifics of your family will be far less than the fee associated with sorting out a flawed do-it-yourself strategy. Estate planning is like anything else: you get what you pay for.

Why a Trust is Better than a Survivorship Strategy

By Attorney Ted Brown

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 8.55.22 AMClients often ask me “if they need a trust to avoid probate?” And of course the answer is “no.” There are a variety of ways to avoid the hassle and expense of probate such as survivorship deeds, rights of survivorship accounts and payable on death designations. This is commonly known as a “survivorship” or “payable on death” strategy.

However, this strategy has several major limitations and potential drawbacks. The most significant is that it only allows couples to plan for one stage, or the death of one spouse, at a time. In most cases bank policy does not allow for an account to be jointly owned between two spouses and have a payable on death designation to the children after both pass.

For example, husband and wife can own an account jointly and have it set up that it goes to the survivor without probate. But policy prevents them from also designating that the account be divided among the children at the survivor’s death. Banks will allow the survivor to make that designation only after the first spouse passes. Deed rules also provide the same limitations on real estate.

This strategy will allow a couple to avoid probate at first death, but requires the surviving spouse to take affirmative steps after the first spouse passes away to do the same type of planning. Unfortunately, this second round of planning is commonly not done and the children are faced with a complex and costly probate proceeding at the survivor’s death.

Similarly, this type of planning does not avoid probate in a situation where both spouses pass away at the same time or within a short period.

By contrast, a revocable living trust allows a couple to plan for both stages at the same time. In fact, a trust is the only type of estate planning instrument that can avoid probate at the death of both spouses without requiring any additional action by the survivor. Both spouses maintain complete control over trust assets during life.

Therefore, a trust is an incredibly powerful and cost-effective method of probate planning for a couple, even with modest assets. Of course, your specific situation will dictate the best strategy for you. It is a good idea to discuss any type of estate planning strategy with a professional Elder Law Attorney.

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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.

 

DOES A TRUST AVOID PROBATE?

 

By Mary C. Roberts

Most people, when asked, will tell you that the reason they wish to have a trust is to avoid probate. However, a trust only covers the items that have been funded to it. Too many times the trust is executed and only partially funded. Small accounts or stock items may be ignored and never funded to the trust. Anything left out, or not otherwise covered through a beneficiary designation, is a probate issue.

It is important that the Settlors of the Trust make a diligent effort to see that everything is transferred to the trust, including all real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, CDs, money market accounts, stocks or bonds and partnership interests and any and all titled assets that they may own.

As the years go by, you should review your assets periodically to see that any new accounts, motor vehicle purchases or other assets have been titled to the trust. This can be done at anytime.

TIPS TO REMEMBER:

Changes come about in our lives and changes must be made in beneficiary designations and trustee designations to reflect these changes.

If you have a trust, take the time to inventory and review your assets with an elder law attorney to see that all is well. It is always helpful, also, to have an itemized list of your assets in your trust book to save your Successor Trustee significant time when you are gone. Otherwise the search is on. It can take a significant amount of time and energy to complete the marshaling of the assets.

Special Child, Special Trust

 

By Angie Miracle

October 1, 2011 was a pretty big day for me. In one fell swoop I became a wife, a daughter-in-law, and a stepmother. The role as wife and daughter-in-law are pretty smooth, I chose a great family to marry into (I now have an uncle who was once the Key West arm-wrestling champion, and believe me, the stories only get better!). Having never been a mother before, the role as stepmother has been an adjustment, but a rewarding one.

My stepson is 8 years old. He is so creative and intelligent, and can be incredibly focused. Just last month he built a Lego structure that included over 3,000 pieces…all on his own…in two days. He stopped only to eat, sleep, and take his medication, which he takes six different kinds of throughout the day.

Tyler had an intestinal transplant when he was 14 months old, and because of this condition he is completely dependent upon those medications to survive. As you can imagine, healthcare costs are astronomical. Our family is fortunate to have wonderful insurance, however, when Tyler becomes an adult, he will never qualify for his own insurance plan. That is why a Special Needs Trust has been put in place for him. This trust is specifically designed so that Tyler's financial needs will be met as an adult. Without the added stress of financial concerns, he can focus simply on his health, which is the way it should be.

Should your family have special needs, Cooper, Adel & Associates can design such a trust for you. Please call us to learn more about a Special Needs Trust.             

Wills and Probate Court

 

By Jessica LoPiccolo

 

People often think that when they write a Will their estate planning is done. They believe that nothing else is required. Wrong!  A Will states who you want your executor and beneficiaries to be, but it does not keep your heirs out of Probate Court. In fact, a Will is the document used by Probate Court to appoint an Executor and to handle your assets – pay your bills, taxes and distribute what’s left – after you pass away.   

 

A Will does not go into effect until the Executor is appointed by the Probate Court.  Probate protection requires that you have a beneficiary named to receive assets (your home, your cars, your bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) who is living at your death.  There are many ways to accomplish this.

 

Probating your estate is both costly and time consuming. It will take at least a year in Ohio and can take years to settle up an Estate if there are conflicts.

 

There are ways to avoid probate, and there are even ways to protect assets from Nursing Home situations. Here at Cooper, Adel & Associates, we specialize in this type of planning. In fact, Elder Law planning is all that we do. Please give us a call to set up a free consultation and to learn how your heirs can avoid the probate process.

 

Summit County Probate Judge Wants You to Avoid Probate

 

By Attorney Keith Stevens

Summit County Probate Court Judge Todd McKenney recently started a campaign that may seem bizarre, given his day job – he wants to help people stay out of probate court. The recently-appointed judge has launched a community project to help people examine and redraft deeds to ensure that homes can be transferred outside of probate when a spouse or parent passes away. Initial reports from the project indicate that 37% of examined deeds for married couples who own a home together would still require a probate estate to be opened when one of them died.

Probate can be costly and time-consuming. Creditors must be given time to take a bite of the estate owed to them and expenses can quickly pile up between attorney's fees and filing fees, but Judge McKenney told The Akron Beacon Journal that “It is not just the money, but the frustration of completing the probate estate shortly after the loss of a loved one.” Losing a loved one is hard enough without having to take their estate through the cumbersome and public process of probate.

Judge McKenney's project is a step in the right direction, but with the proper planning you can do much more than just probate protect your real property. What about your bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, vehicles, and personal belongings? If you get your deed redrafted to protect your spouse, what happens to your children when you both pass away? The probate and elder law attorneys at Cooper, Adel & Associates can help you address these concerns and more.

Reference: http://www.ohio.com/news/probate-judge-launches-project-to-help-some-avoid-probate-1.257454



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