Estate Planning Lawyer - Daniel A Baron

Qualified Personal Residence Trusts

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, Ohio, offers the following information on whether a Qualified Personal Residence Trust should be part of your comprehensive estate planning.

For wealthier families, a great tool to manage your future tax savings would be to transfer the liability of owning a property for which you may end up paying estate taxes on, to a Qualified Personal Residence Trust, or QPRT.

In 2017 the gift exemption was set at $5.49 million, therefore, creating a QPRT permits you to make better use of this exemption. This allows anyone with a substantial estate and the likelihood of facing future transfer taxes, the opportunity to place a residence, be it a primary home, a secondary home, lake, mountain, or ocean side getaway, in a QPRT.  Transferring of this property is a lifetime transfer of residence in exchange for a rent free use of the home for the entire term of the trust.  Should the grantor survive the term of the trust, the property can either remain in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries or transfer outright to the beneficiaries.  Either way, successfully establishing a QPRT reduces the gift tax or estate tax cost.

You must keep in mind that this a federal tax exemption and some states may still impose a tax on the value of the property, but it still remains a great tool to maximize your estate taxes upon your passing.

Frequently asked Questions:

  • When should I utilize a QPRT
  • What requirements need to be met to qualify a property for the QPRT tax reduction
  • Does a mortgage impact the QPRT transfer
  • Are there any tax consequences connected with a QPRT

To see whether or not a Qualified Personal Residence Trust is the right estate tax savings plan for you, contact an experienced Estate Planning lawyer. Contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723 to answer any questions you may have on a QPRT or any other trust.  We welcome the opportunity to work with you recommending the best solution for your needs.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Planning for Married Couples Using Portability and Bypass Trusts

Planning for Married Couples Using Portability and Bypass Trusts

 As Seen Published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal

Significant expansion of the federal estate tax exclusion has dramatically changed how estate planning professionals plan for married couples.   In 2000 when the federal estate tax exclusion was merely $675,000 and federal tax rates peaked at fifty-five percent (55%), bypass trusts or “credit shelter trusts” were a popular means of sheltering wealth to preserve assets for a surviving spouse and children.   Today however, the exclusion amount has grown to an astounding $5.49 million per-spouse which is now “portable” and can be carried over to the surviving spouse’s estate.  Thus, significant changes in recent years have compelled estate planning attorneys to consider the concept of portability versus bypass trusts.

What is a Bypass Trust?

Bypass trusts are historically an effective tool designed to minimize estate taxes by sheltering wealth into a trust.   The concept is pretty straightforward: every individual is afforded an exemption amount that permits their estate to transfer to a surviving party without suffering loss to federal estate taxes.  Conversely, before portability, married couples would lose one of these exemptions at the death of the first spouse.  At the death of the second spouse, if the value of the estate exceeded the surviving spouse’s exemption, it would be taxed at the federal estate tax rate.   For example, when the exemption amount was $675,000 in the year 2000, a person dying with $1 million in his or her estate would result in $178,750 in federal estate taxes because the remaining $325,000 over the exemption is taxed.

Married couples could avoid these tax implications by directing some of their estate to a bypass trust that would support the needs of the surviving spouse, while also sheltering that portion of the estate from unnecessary taxation. This may be accomplished by dividing the estate into two portions.  Instead of leaving the entire estate to a surviving spouse, the deceased spouse leaves assets for their children in one trust account and a separate trust account for the surviving spouse’s benefit.  Assets placed in the separate trust account for children reduce, if not eliminate, estate taxes entirely.

Advantages for Larger Estates Using Bypass Trusts

With larger estates, bypass trusts may be a better planning option when considering the financial and tax implications for married couples.  By far the greatest advantage is that appreciation of the trust assets and undistributed income will not be subject to federal estate tax upon the surviving spouse’s passing.   This is especially important for assets in the decedent’s estate that may appreciate drastically before the surviving spouse’s death.  In addition, if intergenerational planning is important, bypass trusts are likely a better option over portability because they allow for use of the generation-skipping tax exclusion of the first spouse to pass.  Portability is not available for the generation-skipping tax exemption thus, portability would simply not work.

Providing Asset Protection

Aside from the tax implications, asset protection will sometimes compel the need for establishing a bypass trust over portability.   If properly drafted, the trust creates a certain level of asset protection for children and a surviving spouse.  Coupled with credit shelter spendthrift provisions, the trust may preclude the assets from being attacked by the creditors of trust beneficiaries.  This form of asset protection is particularly important and commonly used for beneficiaries who are in a “shaky marriage” and/or who have spending issues.  While a surviving spouse may not have obvious significant creditor or litigation risks (like being a surgeon or professional athlete), creditor protection should always be on the horizon.  When compared to portability, the fact remains that estate planning using bypass trusts can remain relevant at nearly all levels of net worth if the driving reason for the trust is a non-tax concern.


Bypass trusts serve an important and necessary purpose to preserve an estate against creditors and divorce.  However, for smaller estates, this protection comes with taxable consequences.   Unlike the use of portability, there is no second step-up in basis at the death of surviving spouse.   For smaller estates, this could leave beneficiaries paying a great deal in income tax upon the disposition of the asset.  Further, undistributed income of the trust can be subject to higher income tax rates than individuals.  In addition, although minimal, there may be an added annual expense of filing a trust tax return.  Finally, the use of bypass trusts will require the retitling of assets which can sometimes be tedious and relatively costly.

What is Portability?

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has been a game changing concept when planning for married couples.   Since the Act, portability is now a permanent part of the federal estate tax system, which means each spouse’s estate tax exclusion that is unused at death is portable and can be carried over to the surviving spouse.   It has effectively doubled the exemption amount for combined assets of married couples to over $10 million.  With portability, assets are stepped up in basis at the death of the first spouse, and then are stepped up again at the death of surviving spouse.   For families with larger retirement assets, portability has proven to have several advantages.

Advantages of Portability

The biggest advantage for using portability, especially for smaller to medium estates, is the use of step-up in basis.   This is in contrast to using a bypass trust, where the assets are stepped up at the death of the first spouse, but not at the death of the second spouse.   Compared with bypass trusts, there is no need to retitle assets or divide assets into separate trust shares when using portability.    For the most part, portability is simple and can be utilized even in lieu of estate planning prior to death.

Downside to Portability

If the client’s goal is to protect assets of beneficiaries from remarriage, creditors, and/or divorce, then portability is probably not the only planning tool that should be considered.   With portability, a portion of inherited assets are subject to the surviving spouse’s present and future creditors, as well as creditors in bankruptcy and, if the surviving spouse remarries and then divorces, to ex-spouses.   Additionally, portability is not available for the generation-skipping tax exemption.    Although retitling of assets is not required, the use of portability is not automatic.   Timely estate tax returns must be filed and may require additional cost from tax professionals.

A Quick Comparison

Let’s assume Ken and Kathy have a combined net worth of $10.98 million.   Ken dies in 2016 and Kathy dies in 2026.  During this 10-year period we will assume the federal estate tax rate will be forty percent (40%) and they live in a state with no estate or income tax.

Using Portability

Ken forgoes setting up a trust and instead relies on portability. Let’s assume that over the ten-year period after Ken’s death,   the total estate grows at a modest five percent (5%) annually.  This would yield a total combined estate of $17.88 million when Kathy dies in 2026. Not taking into account inflation, Kathy’s total estate tax exclusion will be both Ken’s unused portion plus her own, totaling $10.98 million.  Consequently, the total amount subject to estate tax is $6.9 million ($17.88m – $10.98).  At a forty percent (40%) tax rate, the possible resulting federal estate tax is $2.76 million.

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Portability Chart

Using Bypass Trusts

Now let’s assume that Ken created a bypass trust which at death would become irrevocable and funded the family trust account to its maximum of $5.49 million.  When Kathy dies 10 years later, all of the appreciation within the family trust will escape estate tax.  Here, the resulting taxable estate is $3.45 million opposed to $6.9 using portability.  Kathy still maintains her $5.49 exclusion resulting in the total estate tax of $1.38 million.

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bypass trust chart comparing portability

In sum, portability has the benefit of simplicity and $5.49 million of a portable exemption.  For smaller estates without intergenerational or asset protection concerns, portability appears to be the better option.  On the other hand, regardless of the size of the estate, bypass trusts remain effective at all levels of net worth if the driving reason is non-tax related.    Estate planning goes well beyond the comparison of portability versus bypass trusts and careful consideration of the client’s needs should be implemented into every plan.   For more information, contact Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723 or

Top Reasons For Needing a Trust

Top Reasons For Having a Trust

When creating an estate plan, the biggest mistake people make is thinking they need to be rich in order to have a trust – that is completely false.  If you’re not Warren Buffet, you may still have other non-monetary reasons for creating a trust like asset protection, control, tax savings, Medicaid planning, and/or litigation and creditor protection.   Even if your estate is worth less than $100,000, you may still be in an ideal situation to protect your nest egg and what you’ve spent a lifetime trying to build.

Although the situations of needing a trust are infinite, here are a few most common scenarios where you might benefit from creating a trust.  You can also take a one-minute trust questionnaire here, to find out more specifically whether a trust is right for you.

Second Marriages

With divorce rates over fifty percent, the most common reason for creating a trust is where an individual is in their second marriage.  In this scenario, there is nothing preventing the remaining spouse from disinheriting children from a prior marriage.  Consider this example: Husband and Wife are in their second marriage.  Wife has two kids from a prior marriage. Husband does not have kids except for step-children of current marriage.  Wife passes away and leaves everything to Husband, remainder to two kids.  Five years later, Husband meets a much younger Pamela Anderson and gets married.  Husband creates a new estate plan naming Pamela Anderson as primary beneficiary of his estate, remainder to two step-children.  Husband dies.   Pamela then creates a new estate plan, disinheriting children.

Famous Last Words, “I would never get remarried!”

As you can see, this is a very typical example of where some level of control and strategy is needed.  A trust in this example would solve the wife’s concerns entirely.  Here, Wife could have created what is known as a QTIP trust.  In a nut shell, the QTIP would give Husband income from Wife’s estate, plus five percent (5 %) of principal each year.  When Husband dies, the estate MUST be passed to children and cannot be passed to anyone else.  In essence, Wife is able to control her estate even after she’s passed.  She has also ensured her children will never be cut out of the estate, even if it were the unintentional result of Husband.  And if this were not a second marriage, a trust might still make sense for couples wanting to keep the estate within the family and avoid remarriage concerns.

Tax Savings for Children

Receiving an estate comes with taxable consequences.  Although federal estate taxes are not normally at issue, gains on an inheritance can be quite high for children resulting in higher taxes.  For example, a child receiving $100,000 in gains might be placed in a larger tax bracket of 39.9% because their inheritance placed them over the threshold.  The simple solution here is for the child to receive their inheritance over time, opposed to a lump sum. The trust itself will pay income taxes on gains and the children can enjoy a stream of payments over time.

Asset Protection

Depending on the type of trust created, a trust can protect both the creator (you) and beneficiary of trust.  The most common asset protection trust is used for children instead of the creator.  This type of trust is known as a “revocable living trust.” This type of trust gets its name because the creator can revoke, change, or modify, the trust at any time during his/her lifetime.   After the creator passes away, the estate is placed in an “irrevocable trust,” where the trust now cannot be changed.   In other words, the terms you’ve created in trust cannot be changed after you pass away.  Usually the trust maker will set forth terms that would pay children and/or beneficiaries payments over their lifetime.  So long as there is discretion given to the trustee (usually a trusted family member or attorney) the money remaining in trust cannot be attacked by creditors or litigation.  In other words, if a child ends up in a lawsuit, the trustee can cease payments to the child so that the money is protected from the lawsuit.  The same outcome would apply if the child ends up in bankruptcy or owes creditors.


It’s well known that in a divorce, all assets are split 50/50.  It doesn’t matter whether one spouse cheated or did something horrible to the other.  Ohio courts will divide all assets accumulated during the marriage 50/50, including an inheritance.  So, if your child inherits $1 million dollars from your estate, and then subsequently gets divorced, the ex-spouse will receive $500,000 of your money.  Using the same example above, you can protect your child’s inheritance by creating a revocable living trust.   Here again, the trustee can turn off the income stream to prevent a disgruntled son-in-law from receiving his unearned share.


No matter how they’re raised, it’s not uncommon for children to be irresponsible or need at least some level of guidance.  With a trust you can create payment terms so that children don’t blow their inheritance on impulsive purchases.  For example, many trusts stipulate that children may only use funds for “health, maintenance, education, and support” until they reach the age of X, thereafter payments made over time to protect against divorce, litigation, and creditors.   This method is very common and puts parents at ease even with responsible children.

You don’t have to be rich to protect what you’ve spent a lifetime trying to build.  To find out whether a trust is right for your family, take the one-minute trust questionnaire at  There are a number of different trusts available and the choices are infinite.  With every scenario, careful consideration of every trust planning strategy should be considered for the maximum asset protection and tax savings.  For more information, you can contact Dan A. Baron of Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723.  Baron Law LLC is a Cleveland, Ohio area law firm focusing on estate planning and elder law.  Dan can also be reached at

Estate Planning Lawyer - Daniel A Baron

Ohio’s Right to Disposition – Who Has Final Say?

Cleveland, Ohio, Estate Planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, of Cleveland, Ohio, offers the following information on the issue of your Rights to Disposition after you pass.

Imagine if you will, your Uncle Harry has passed away and although he had specific wishes on what to do with his remains, there are others in a packed courtroom (immediate family members, blended family members, extended family members, friends, and lawyers) all thinking that they know what Uncle Harry’s final wishes were.

Although we always seem to hear about this situation coming out of Hollywood or New York City, you don’t have to be a celebrity to have family, friends, and lawyers be involved with what to do with your remains. Not only can this cause undue stress between family members and friends, but this can also produce large legal fees from opposing attorneys.  Ohio has a law which went into effect October 12, 2006 to prevent legal battles such as these from occurring.

Should you have questions like these, they are better answered by a qualified Estate Planning Lawyer.

  • What criteria do the courts use in deciding whether someone should be given authority to make the funeral decisions?
  • What precautionary measures are in place if the “designated person” in charge of making such decisions is not qualified or capable of making this type of decision any longer?
  • What ae some issues pertaining to funerals that arise that tend to lead to legal battles?
  • How does Ohio address these potential issues?
  • What occurs when there has been no person designated to make these decisions?
  • Is there a provision that allows someone to name a group of people rather than an individual having the right to dispose of the remains?

For answers to these and any other estate planning questions it is prudent to contact an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer. Contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723 to arrange a meeting.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future