Estate Planning Lawyer

What’s the Difference Between a Living Will and Last Will and Testament?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following helpful answers to your questions about the difference between a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament.
Confusing these terms happens quite frequently as there are those that think that these are one in the same, however, they are entirely two distinct legal documents which cover many different needs.

A Living Will, what is it and do I need one?

 

 

Should you become extremely ill or completely incapacitated and cannot convey their medical care wishes; having a living will in place, (which is a legal document AKA as an advance directive), gives instructions as to the medical care you wish to receive.

Some of the details of a Living Will would include

  • Do I want to be placed on a breathing tube
  • Do I want a feeding tube
  • Would I rather not be resuscitated (AKA DNR – Do Not Resuscitate)

Also, at this point it would be wise to consider having a Power of Attorney put in place in the event that you do become incapacitated so that there is someone making sure that your wishes are carried out as you have communicated in your Living Will. Naming a Power of Attorney can be done at the time of penning your will.

 

 Last Will and Testament, is it different than a Living Will?

Your last will and testament, also simply known as a will, is a legal document that stipulates the transferring of your estate to somebody else by sale or gift upon your demise. Should you pass away without a will, your assets then become “intestate”.  At this time state intestacy laws govern the distribution of your assets.

If you have minor children, you should unquestionably have a will. At the same time of the writing of your will, it is possible for you to name a guardian for your minor children.  You can also name the guardian to manage the minor’s financial affairs or another party to act on behalf of the children.

As you are drafting your will, it will be necessary for you to select an Executor of your estate. The Executor is one who carries out the will’s requests throughout the process of probate.

Living Will and Last Will – when do they take effect?

Now that you are aware of the differences between a Living Will and a Last Will, you may question as to when the two take effect.

Keeping in mind that the Living Will outlines your medical wishes should you become incapacitated or seriously ill and unable to convey your wishes, this comes into play while you are still alive but unable to voice your wishes.

To stipulate your wishes of how to distribute your estate upon your passing comes into play by using a Last Will and Testament .

So as you can see a Living Will and a Last Will and testament are two separate, but very important legal documents for everyone to have in place.

Living Will vs. Last Will?

If you are pondering the questions as to whether you need a last will or a living will. The answer to that question should be very easy; just about everyone should have both. Each of these important documents are ones that every person doing their Estate Planning should secure as these offer you the peace of mind that your wishes will be followed when you can’t make them known due to a serious illness and/or incapacitation or death.

Having a last will and testament, also makes the probate process go more smoothly, and with a living will, it can provide direction to your loved ones or Power of Attorney, in making challenging decisions during a stressful and difficult time.

So when is the best time for me to get a living will and a last will?

Unless you have a crystal ball which states otherwise, the future is uncertain. Securing both a living will and a last will and testament and recording your wishes is best done sooner than later.

Both a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament are only two of the many parts to a comprehensive estate plan. For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, or further questions on Powers of Attorney, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law at 216-573-3723 to make an appointment.

Living Will

Do I need a Living Will?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following regarding living wills:

Before you can answer this question you must first understand what a Living will is and what purpose it serves.

A Living Will is one form of Advance Directive which clearly defines your wishes for medical care should the following occur:

A Living Will clearly states your health care intentions.  This document allows you to make decisions while still cognitive such as:

  • Whether or not you wish to be put on life support, even if for a very short time
  • Would you would like to receive pain medication of any kind
  • Is it you desire to have any nutrition available by means of a feeding tube

The Living Will document also allows you to list any further specific instructions for your care if you become fully incapacitated.

Another form to consider securing in conjunction with a Living Will is a Health Care Proxy which is a specific Power of Attorney. A Health Care Power of Attorney authorizes a specific person you have chosen to act on your behalf to make all medical decisions (or to make sure that your medical wishes in your Living Will that you have set forth are followed), in the eventuality that you are no longer able to make these decisions yourself.

It might be in your best interested to have both a Living Will and a Power of Attorney which will set forth comprehensive guidance when it comes to your medical care in the end stages of life.

Things to consider when completing these documents:

  • Who do I want and trust to make my health care decisions when I am no longer capable of making them on my own?
  • What kind of medical treatment DO I or DON’T I want?
  • How comfortable do I want to be when my life’s journey is coming to an end?
  • How do I want people to treat me?
  • What do I want my loved ones to know?

Having a Living Will is only one part to a comprehensive estate plan.  For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, contact Dan Baron of Baron Law to make an appointment at 216-573-3723.

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What Is a Power of Attorney and Do I Need One?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following helpful answers to Powers of Attorney:

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document you use allowing another designated person, of your choosing, to act on your behalf. It is a legal relationship in which you are the principal and the person you appoint is the agent.  A Power of Attorney outlines specific powers you give to your agent. The powers can be limited or broad. An example would be, you are selling your house, but are not able to attend the closing.  You can at that point give someone the power just to sign the deed in your absence.  Keep in mind that most durable powers of attorney, give your agent the power to do almost anything you could or would do.  In this example you may just limit the function of the Power of Attorney’s duties.

Some financial institutions, brokerage firms, or banks may require you to sign one of their own company specific Power of Attorney for their files.

Why do I need a Power of Attorney?

In the event you become unable to handle your own affairs as a result of illness, accident, or even being absent due to your job, the Power of Attorney gives your agent the power to handle your financial affairs as you would handle them yourself.  Since you might not be able to execute a Power of Attorney at a time when you are disabled due to an accident or become incapacitated, or should you become unable to handle your own affairs and have no Power of Attorney, your spouse or family may have to request the Probate Court to appoint a power of attorney on your behalf.  A Power of Attorney can be very helpful to both you and your family, as by naming your own agent and having a signed Power of Attorney avoids the expense of probate court and avoids naming someone who may not know and carryout your wishes.

Where should I keep my Power of Attorney?

As your Power of Attorney is an important legal document, it is recommended that you keep it in a safe and secure place. You may also want to give a copy to your agent(s) or in a safe and secure place where it can be easily found by your acting agent.  Your agent may also keep a copy in case yours is lost. It is also wise to make sure your family knows where to find your Power of Attorney, or whom to ask when it is needed.  And of course, your attorney will have a copy of the Power of Attorney.

What does “durable” mean?

The legal definition of ‘durable’ means the Power of Attorney will remain in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. The powers you give to your agent will remain effective even though you are unable to give your agent updated instructions.  If you have an older power of attorneys or an out of state powers of attorney, many of these still have these words, and remain in effect.

When does the Power of Attorney take effect?

The Power of Attorney becomes effective immediately upon signing the document before two witnesses and having it notarized. The agent is able to use the Power of Attorney as soon as he or she receives it.  However, you may give the Power of Attorney to your agent(s) and tell the person(s) NOT to use it unless you are unconscious or unable to act for yourself.  It is imperative that you know and trust the person you are asking to be your Power of Attorney.

You may opt to use a “springing” Power of Attorney which would not take effect until a specific triggering event happens, such as you become incapacitated. However, there are several issues with springing Powers of Attorney.  The agent first needs an affidavit showing the triggering event has occurred before the Power of Attorney can be put into use.  Then, even though the law says banks and other institutions that accept the document with the affidavit are not liable, banks have been reluctant to recognize the agent’s power under a springing Power of Attorney. Ultimately, it isn’t clear whether such a document would be accepted in other states other than your own.

Does giving someone a Power of Attorney mean I don’t have control over my money any longer?

It does not. Although you still have the right to control your money and property after a Power of Attorney has been put in place, keep in mind, you are giving your agent the ability to access your money.  Although there is a risk that a dishonest or unscrupulous agent might steal your money, your agent is not supposed to use your funds in any manner with your permission.  It is therefore vital to choose an agent you trust. A sound idea would be to go over the agent’s duties before you sign your power of attorney.

Do I need to update my Power of Attorney if nothing has changed?

It is always a good idea to review your Power of Attorney periodically to make sure you still agree with your choices.

There are some banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions that will attempt to reject a Power of Attorney that is several years old. This is mainly due to the possibility that the Power of Attorney has been revoked.  This is a good thing, so that an unscrupulous agent that had their Power of Attorney duties revoked, does not gain access to your funds and deplete them.  There are several options to prepare for this. If you remain competent it is very wise to re-execute your Power of Attorney every five years or so.

If unfortunately, you are no longer competent; your agent can sign an affidavit that your power of attorney is in full force and in effect and provide that to the financial institution.

A Power of Attorney is only one of the many parts to a comprehensive estate plan. For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, or further questions on Powers of Attorney, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.

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What is Business Succession?

Whether you’re planning for retirement or the life of your business after your death, it’s imperative to develop a business succession plan to sooner rather than later.   There is no “one plan fits all” when it comes to developing a succession plan for your business.  And given that the economy is constantly changing, it isn’t surprising small business owners focus their energies on business survival, future growth, and even remaining active in business after retirement.

Business succession is about three things (1) Estate planning; (2) Retirement; and (3) Risk Management.

Estate Planning

Your estate plan should be incorporated into your business succession plan.  What will happen to your company assets after you die?  Who will run your business?  If you want to provide for your family using your business assets, you should consider at the very least having a last will and testament.  Carefully drafting your will allows you to select desired beneficiaries, elect an executor, and transfer your assets through probate.  Your family will be going through a difficult time.  Setting up a last will and testament in advance helps your family during that difficult time.

Retirement

When thinking about retirement, it’s important to consider your options when selling your business.  Will you sell with a lump sum, installments, mix, employee buy-out, or merger?  There are numerous options when planning for your retirement and taking advantage of the business you built.  Thus, business succession is about planning for your exit strategy.  To learn more about your options, visit this article.

Risk Management

Business succession is about limiting your risk.  If you have partners within your company, you should be aware of the risks involved.  For example, if your partner gets divorced, their spouse is entitled to the partner’s share in the business through the divorce proceedings.  If your partner dies, you can now be partners with their spouse or estate.  One option to avoid this potential risk is to create a buy-sell agreement through a cross purchase agreement or entity purchase agreement.

Business succession is an important idea that every business owner should consider.  Contact your Cleveland, Ohio business succession and estate planning attorney for more information on how to set up your plan.  You may also consider contacting Cleveland, Ohio law firm Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723.

 

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Business Succession Options

Cleveland, Ohio business succession attorney Dan Baron offers the following on estate planning and business succession:

You’ve spent a lifetime building your business and now its time for retirement.  Where do you start?  When developing your business succession plan, it’s important to consider all of your options.   Selling and/or transferring your business will have significant implications on your estate plan, taxes, family, and financial well-being.  Here are a few suggested options with a discussion on these implications.

Valuation

Regardless of whether you sell to your family, third-party, or friend, you will need a complete evaluation of your business.  Many business owners overvalue their business because they’re place an emotional value on the blood, sweat, and tears they’ve spent growing their business over the years.  It’s imperative to get a third-party evaluation on your business to better understand what your company is worth, and who is willing to buy.

When evaluating, your business attorney and/or financial advisor will consider several approaches to your company’s worth:

  • Market Approach – Revenue growth, profitability, company size, liquidity
  • Income Approach –Revenue growth, profitability, cost of capital, leverage; Working capital efficiency; Low capital expenditures
  • Asset Approach –Asset intensive, leverage, scarcity, time

Now that you have a value, how should you sell your business in an effective way to provide a secure retirement while considering tax consequences? Let’s consider the following options.

Lump Sum

Selling your business for millions of dollars is every business owners dream.  However, this may not be a viable option for several reasons.  First, if selling to employees or family, these buyers may not have enough capital or credit to purchase your business’ worth.  Next, selling your business outright will result in a large capital gain and tax consequence compared to taking payments over timer.  It could also place you in a different tax bracket entirely.   Thus, when considering selling for a lump sum, you should consult with your estate planning and business attorney to consider all the tax consequences and other planning tools available

Lump Sum + Installments

If a lump sum will create an unfavorable tax consequence, then you can structure the deal so that you take a smaller lump sum up-front and payments over time.  Your business attorney will suggest taking a lump sum that is just under the threshold of a tax bracket.

Installments Only

If selling to family or employees, installment payments are an affordable way to sell your business. However, many times the business owner will still be involved when selling to employees and moreover, the business needs to be sustainable in order to receive the payments over time.  In other words, you can’t get paid if they business fails over time.

Self – Cancelling Installment Note

Here the business owner gives his employees the business in exchange for a promissory note – usually purchased by employees.  The promissory note is usually coupled with a personal guarantee from the employees.  Payments are then made over time but cease when the business owner passes away.  This option reduces capital gains and estate taxes.  However, the payments made will be set at a premium set by the IRS mortality tables to account for the business owners lifetime.  If the business owner lives past this time, the payments cease.  If the owner dies before this timeline, the payments cease.

There are several other options business owners have when selling their business.  For more information, or to request a free consultation with a Cleveland, Ohio business and estate planning attorney, contact Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.

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Estate Planning Tools

There are numerous estate planning tools that can help you protect you and your family.  To learn more and to speak with a Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, contact Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723.

Estate planning is about planning for you and your loved ones.  There are numerous estate planning tools to help you plan for the future while protecting your assets.  First, for even the smallest of estates, every person should have a last will and testament.  A will is your way to declare to the world who is to receive your assets after you’re gone.  Without a will, it’s possible for your assets to end up in unclaimed funds with the State.

Nationwide, insurance companies owe $7.4 billion, so far, in life insurance. That’s what major life insurance companies have agreed to pay in unclaimed benefits, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Of that, $5 billion will go directly to beneficiaries they find. And $2.4 billion will go to states, whose unclaimed property departments will work at searching for and paying beneficiaries

A will is often coupled with a durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney.  If you ever become temporarily incapacitated and need others to make financial and healthcare decisions for you, a power of attorney can do just that.  Ohio laws have recently changed and if you haven’t had your power of attorney updated within the last five years, it’s likely that your power of attorney does not contain the necessary language giving power to your designated agent.

Beneficiary designations are another powerful way to transfer your assets and avoid probate.  It’s important to remember to update your beneficiary designations with life changing events such as a new child or divorce.  Oftentimes people forget to change their beneficiary designations after a divorce and it leads to a great debate in court; moreover, the likely intended beneficiaries feeling forgotten and unloved.

Trusts are a powerful tool to make your wishes known, avoid probate, protect assets, and save money on taxes.  There are many different trust options.  The most common trusts are revocable and irrevocable trusts.  A revocable living trust is funded while the creator is living.  After death the trust becomes irrevocable and the property placed in the trust is then safeguarded from creditors and litigation.  Irrevocable trusts during the creator’s lifetime are protected against creditors and litigation if properly created and funded.  To learn more about the benefits of trusts, click on one of these links: Dynasty Trusts, Revocable Living Trusts, Ohio Legacy Trusts, QTIP Trusts.

There are numerous estate planning tools that can help you protect you and your family.  To learn more and to speak with a Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, contact Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723.

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Revocable Living Trusts

Cleveland Estate Planning and Trust Attorney Dan A. Baron Offers the Following on Revocable Living Trusts:

Revocable living trusts are used to control assets left to beneficiaries after the death of the creator.  Unlike testamentary trusts which are funded after the death of the testator, revocable living trusts are funded during the trustmaker’s lifetime.   Because living trusts are revocable, they do not offer creditor or litigation protection for the trustmaker.  Instead, just like with a testamentary trust, the assets held in trust are protected for the trustmaker’s beneficiaries.

For example, let’s say Mom and Dad have children from a previous marriage.  Dad dies leaving his two kids who are attending college.  Before his death he set up a revocable living trust leaving the majority of the money to his current spouse but in addition left $100,000 for his children IF they attain a college degree.  Here Dad is able to monetarily encourage his children to finish school even after he passes away.

The benefit of having the revocable living trust is that money left to beneficiaries is protected from creditors and litigation.  Once the creator dies, the trust then becomes irrevocable and the wishes of the trustmaker can no longer be changed.  In addition, because the trust is now irrevocable, the assets contained within the trust avoid probate and can be transferred immediately or at the discretion of the Trustee.

One disadvantage to revocable living trusts is that there is limited protection for the trustmaker.  Because the trust is revocable before death, the trustmaker does not enjoy the same protections as his beneficiaries.  For larger estates, the trustmaker might consider an Ohio Legacy Trust instead.

To learn more about revocable living trusts call Baron Law LLC today.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can help answer your questions.  Call today at 216-276-4282.

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QTIP Trusts – Estate Planning for Those With Children From a Prior Marriage.

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney offers the following:

The main benefit of a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust is being able to control your estate after your gone.  In addition, there are several tax advantages for larger estates.

Each spouse can set up a QTIP trust, leaving assets to the other in trust.  When the first spouse dies, the survivor gets what is called a “life estate” in the assets that are left to the QTIP trust—that is, the survivor is entitled to any income the assets produce, and in the case of real estate, to its use. Only the surviving spouse can be named as the life beneficiary. The survivor does not, however, have full ownership of the trust assets and cannot sell them or give them away.

In order to qualify for the marital exemption, the spouse must receive all of the income from the trust and the Executor must make an election on the tax return.  QTIP’s are very similar to family trusts, or bypass trusts.  And in fact, many times you create a family trust in conjunction with a QTIP.  The difference is that QTIP’s are more restrictive and are useful for those who are in second marriages.

There may also be several tax advantages. Here’s an example:

  • Jim’s share of the marital estate is $12 million. He passes in 2016, leaving a spouse, Karen, and sons from a prior marriage. He had a revocable living trust, which becomes irrevocable upon his death.
  • Upon Jim’s death, his trust sub-divided into an “A” and a “B” trust. $5.43 million is diverted to his “B” trust. Karen is the beneficiary, with limited access.  Because this trust is under the federal estate tax limit, estate tax is $0.00.  Over the next 20 years, because of robust growth, the “B” trust is now $17 million.  Upon the Karen’s death, trust “B” passes to the son’s entirely estate tax free.
  • The remaining $6.57 million in assets are diverted to the “A” trust. Karen again has restricted access, but can use these funds for her health, maintenance and support. When Karen has expenses she uses the “A” trust and saves the “B” trust only for dire necessities.
  • Upon her death the “A” trust has been reduced (or eliminated) and the tax is minimal, if there is any at all. The remaining balance of the “A” trust goes to Jim’s sons.

There are many advantages to setting up a QTIP trust.  Every estate plan is unique and its important to contact an elder law and estate planning attorney who can analyze your estate.   Contact Cleveland, Ohio attorney Dan A. Baron at 216-276-4282 to learn more about QTIP or other trusts.  Baron Law is a Cleveland, Ohio law firm.

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Testamentary Trusts

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Dan A. Baron offers the following on Testamentary Trusts.

Testamentary trusts are a great way to plan and safeguard your assets for minor children.  In other uses testamentary trusts can be used for beneficiaries with addictions or disabilities.   Unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts are incorporated into your last will and testament and are funded only after the creator’s death.   The biggest reason people use testamentary trusts is because they are able to control their assets after they die.

For example, if Mom and Dad die in a car accident leaving behind two young children, they would not want their $500,000 estate being left in the hands of nine and ten-year old.    Instead, Mom and Dad create a last will and testament and incorporate language that appoints a guardian for the children and trustee of their testamentary trust.   The trust parameters outlined for the Trustee to follow often include broad language like “to provide for the health, education, and well-being of my children.”   The trustee controls the money and then distributes it to the children as they need it.  Most often, the remaining balance left in the trust is distributed to the children once they reach the age of 25.

It’s important to remember that unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate.  Instead, testamentary trusts are created after the probate process is complete.  Assets left from probate fund the trust and the trustee is then responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.  Once the assets are in trust, they are protected from creditors and litigation.  However, there is no asset protection for the creators before death.

To learn more about testamentary trusts and how they might be beneficial for your estate plan, contact Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can assist you.

 

The information contained in this article is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. This article is not meant to provide legal advice. If you wish to receive a legal opinion or tax advice on the matter(s) in this report please contact our office and we will speak with you directly. 

 

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What is Estate Planning?

What is estate planning?  Estate planning concepts have changed over recent years because today, more Americans fear outliving their retirement than death itself.  In fact, from 1980 to 2010 Americans are now living on average 8 years longer than before.   This extended life expectancy requires on average an additional $422,000 to live ‘comfortably.’  People have traditionally associated estate planning with the transfer of assets after their death.   For example, after the passing of a loved one you must consider the transfer of the home, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.  Estate planning now centers around three things: you, your loved ones, and your community.

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Most importantly, as the pyramid shows, estate planning is about you.  Before planning for the transfer of assets to your loved ones, you must first have assets to transfer.  It’s imperative to have a smart financial plan in place and be able to protect the wealth you’ve earned over your lifetime.   As your wealth grows, you should consider the tax consequences, risks, and even healthcare needs associated with your estate.

Healthcare has especially become a big topic under the umbra of asset protection.  Even larger estates can end up zeroing out with nursing home costs being upwards of $10,000.00 per-month.  But when you put yourself at the base of your estate planning pyramid, you might consider methods to protect your assets from the spenddown of Medicaid.  Asset protection methods like long-term care insurance plans and wholly discretionary trusts that can help save a portion of your assets from Medicaid.

Although charitable gifts are usually not the most important part of an estate plan, they may come in handy to save you thousands on income taxes.   You can take upwards of 30% or more of a deduction from income taxes by creating a charitable remainder trust.  Then you receive income over your lifetime from the trust and the money is passed on as your legacy to your favorite charity.

As you can see, estate planning involves more than just transferring your assets on to your loved ones.  There are numerous ways to provide for you and your family with a carefully and well-thought out plan.  Contact your Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney to start creating your plan today.  For a free consultation, contact Cleveland attorney Dan A. Baron at 216-573-3723.