Probate Attorney

Settling the Estate of a Loved One

Losing a loved one is emotionally challenging and perhaps the most difficult moment in your life.  Yet while grieving there are many tasks that one responsible individual must complete in order to settle the estate. This article is geared toward the executor, the person who will be ‘quarterbacking’ the process in probate court and/or trust to settle the estate of a loved one. If you have been the executor and/or trustee of an estate then you understand that it can be very involved and a great deal of work. If you haven’t endured this role, then hopefully this article will provide some insight on what to expect when that time comes.

Secure Your Oxygen Mask

If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of anything else. Grief will hijack the brain and body like nothing else, so please make sure you taking care of your overall health before engaging in the tasks ahead. Let people help in any and all ways they are able to help you, so that you can take on the enormous tasks of processing your loss while being the quarterback.

Research suggests that grieving is not progressive, like a staircase. Having a terrible day after a relatively good day can be disheartening, but it is normal. As an estate attorney helping clients with numerous probate estates, I’ve found the following to be most helpful when dealing with grief and the responsibilities as Executor:

  • Share the burden of the loss and the joy of your memories with family members and friends.
  • Think about helping others cope, if you can. Helping others deal with the loss can be healing in its own way.
  • Stay well, physically. Move and exercise, eat healthful foods, and most of all, sleep. Sounds too easy right? But seriously, most people fail to do this.
  • Accept help. Help may arrive in a flood at first, but if you feel at your limit and the flood has turned into a trickle, reach out and ask for what you need. Or let your loved ones know in the beginning you may be happy to take them up on their offer later.

Obtain the Trust or Will

Hopefully your loved one let you know where you could find the original or copy of their estate plan. If they had a last will and testament, then the document will be administered through probate court. A trust will have a similar process; however, there is no court involvement. Review the document to get a sense of who is in charge and who will inherit. Look specifically to see if someone has been disinherited so that you can be aware of any potential conflicts down the road. Trust me, when death and money are involved, family members will come out of the woodwork with their hands out expecting their share.

Create an Inventory of Assets and Debts

Settling an estate will generally involve liquidating the assets, depositing them into one large account, paying debts, and then making distributions to beneficiaries. In order to accomplish this task an inventory of assets and debts must be assembled. A spreadsheet will be helpful if you can start recording the things you know of. More may be uncovered along the way. This inventory will be helpful to your attorney during your first meeting with them, and they will help develop it throughout the probate and/or trust process.

Your attorney will guide you as to which debts need to be paid and when. Do NOT start paying debts immediately because not all debts are required to be paid.  Additionally, Ohio probate courts determine a hierarchy for creditors expecting payment. If you, as a fiduciary, have gone around that line – you may be personally liable for making sure the ones in the front of the line get paid. Nonetheless, creating a detailed inventory of the assets and debts will prepare you for this process.

Secure Real Estate

Because a death is often published in the newspaper, it’s important to secure any property to fend off thieves or disgruntled relatives. Don’t be afraid of aggravating family members. It is important that nothing is distributed or taken from the decedent’s home. If necessary, changing the locks on the property is completely acceptable.  Part of securing the property is making sure that there is a plan for water and electric. If the house overheats or pipes freeze, there can be some unpleasant downhill problems to deal with. Thus, assets that are lapidated through the process will be used to pay any expenses and utilities.

Contact a Probate Attorney

I cannot stress enough that settling the estate of a loved one should not be attempted by yourself. There are hundreds of nuances and tricks to avoid creditors and perhaps more importantly, ensure that you are not violating any laws as the fiduciary/executor. We like to work with our estate planning clients in the beginning to structure their estate plan so that probate won’t be necessary. However, even trusts involve a great deal of administration and effort.

The most important thing is that you have a consultation with an attorney that specializes in probate and estates. There are things about Ohio probates that even a good general practicing attorney will miss. During the consultation, a probate attorney will give you an idea of what to expect. There is time, but ideally you will engage an attorney between 30-45 days from the date of death. They will help you “open the estate”

Timeline

In northeast Ohio counties, probates require a minimum of six months. The average probate timeline however is closer to eleven months.  The average time to administer a trust is four months.   If you need help as the executor of an estate or would like to make your estate plan as seamless as possible, please contact our office by phone at 216-573-3723 or e-mail me at dan@baronlawcleveland.com. As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any other legal concern that you may have. You questions and comments are much appreciated.

Baron Law

Advanced Directives – My Personal Experience When Planning for the Unexpected

My Story

Like many of you reading this article, I never think a major medical disaster could happen to me or, if something did happen, that I would be competent enough to make decisions for myself. Well, as a ‘relatively young’ guy, this was not the case recently when I needed emergency surgery to prevent permanent paralysis.   Two years ago, I was practicing my golf swing on a late Thursday afternoon at Sleepy Hollow in Brecksville, Ohio.  I’m a terrible golfer and I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t embarrass myself the next day while playing with a client.  Near the end of my practice, I decided I wanted to see how hard I could hit the ball.  I hit the ball with maximum effort that ended up landing on the fairway outside of the nets.  During my swing I felt a ‘pop’ in my back and my leg went numb.  I decided to call it quits and go home to rest.

That night, while resting I leaned over to grab the TV remote.  Without warning I had excruciating pain suddenly occur in my back and my legs went limp.  I was on the floor unable to move or reach my phone. Luckily, my friend was visiting and he called EMS.   When EMS arrived, I was crying from the pain, unable to move my legs, laying on the floor.  I have never experienced anything more painful in my life. The paramedics gave me a shot of fentanyl for pain – it did nothing. Upon arriving at the hospital, the nurses gave me a shot of morphine – it did nothing. Then the doctor ordered a dilaudid.  After an hour of being on a combination of fentanyl, morphine, and dilaudid, I was finally relieved of pain and in addition, also relieved of my mental abilities.

After an MRI was performed, the doctor came to give me the news.  She said that I had a severe lateral herniated disc. The disc exploded and was piercing the nerves that control my legs.  I would need emergency surgery within the very immediate future, or I would have permanent paralysis in my right leg for life.  She explained that because the herniation was lateral, it required a more complicated approach.  It was one that she could handle, but she felt her colleague (who was on vacation) was more adept due to his experience. The doctor suggested that I wait three days, in severe pain and on multiple pain meds, to have her collegial surgeon perform the surgery. She needed to know what I wanted to do.   However, because of the effect the medications I was taking for pain, I did not have the mental competency to make this decision myself. Instead, those who I named in my advanced directives would need to make these decisions for me.

What are advance Directives?

Simply put, advance directives are legal documents that provide detailed instructions about who should oversee your medical treatment and what your end-of-life or life-sustaining wishes are. In the event you are unable to speak for yourself, like in my case of mental incapacity, the medical professionals can contact someone else who has authority to make those decisions for you. Though there are many advance directive documents out there, the three most common are Healthcare Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization and a Living Will.

Healthcare Power of Attorney – A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to make all healthcare decisions in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself.

Living Will – A living will eases the burden on your healthcare POA to ‘pull the plug’ when you are in a permanent vegetative mental state.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) – Medical records are private and are covered under the HIPAA laws. You Healthcare POA must have the authority to obtain your medical records through a properly executed HIPAA authorization.

My Healthcare POA

By this time, I was admitted in the hospital and the surgeon needed an answer regarding when I wanted the surgery to take place.  The doctor asked to contact my healthcare POA. I said, no problem her name is Kathy and I will provide her number.  I reached for my phone and it was then I realized that I had forgotten it when EMS brought me in.  Like many of us, I did not memorize Kathy’s number so without my phone, I was stuck.  Additionally, since this was during the outbreak of COVID my friend who called EMS was not able to come into the hospital either.

The nurse taking care of me looked through my cart and noticed I already had my healthcare POA on file, naming Kathy as my Agent. I wasn’t thinking clearly so I hadn’t thought to ask the nurse to check.  It was then that I remembered, in a slight daze, that I practice what I preach.   Three years earlier I completed all of my advanced directives and made sure to upload them with all three major hospitals: Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Metro.

The hospital called my Healthcare POA and she came to my rescue.  As a nurse herself, she knew exactly what medications I was on and how to interpret the medical situation.  Moreover, and critically important, she knew how to handle the insurance barriers that come with getting medical treatment.  Had I not completed my Healthcare POA, Living Will and HIPAA several years prior, I may have had a surgery from an inexperienced surgeon or worse yet, may have been paralyzed for life.  Additionally, had I not uploaded these precious documents with my local hospitals, I would not have had my healthcare agent’s phone number.

When I preach to clients about maintaining updated advanced directives I am preaching from experience.  I didn’t need them, until I needed them! Advanced directives are easy to obtain and require minimal effort to have them uploaded to local hospitals.  I implore you to have them drafted by an attorney or at the very least, complete them the next time you’re at your family care physician. For more information or to learn how Baron Law can help you complete your advanced directives, contact us at 216-573-3723.

 

business succession

Business Succession – Where to Start

You’ve spent a lifetime building your business and now it’s time for retirement. So, where do you begin?  When developing your business succession plan, it’s important to consider all of your options because each will have a significant impact on your estate plan, taxes, family, and financial well-being.  Here are a few helpful tips to get started.

Valuation

Regardless of whether you sell to your family, third-party, or employee, you will need a comprehensive valuation of your business.  Many business owners commonly overvalue their business because they place an emotional value on the blood, sweat, and tears they’ve spent working instead of what the company is actually worth in the marketplace.  To avoid this common misstep, it’s imperative to get a third-party analysis to better understand what your company is actually worth, and who is willing to pay for it.

When evaluating, a third-party attorney or financial planner will consider several approaches to your company’s worth:

  • Market Approach – Revenue Growth, Profitability, Company size, and Liquidity
  • Income Approach –Revenue Growth, Profitability, Cost of Capital, Leverage; Working Capital Efficiency; Low Capital Expenditures
  • Asset Approach –Asset Intensive, Leverage, Scarcity, Time

After using all or one of these valuation strategies, you then must consider the most tax efficient method of selling while also providing a secured payment structure.

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 a number of reasons.  First, if selling to employees or family, the buyer will likely not have enough capital or credit to purchase your business’ asking price.  In addition, selling your business outright will result in a large capital gain and tax consequence compared to taking payments over time.  Most notability, it could actually place you in a different tax bracket entirely.   Thus, when considering selling for a lump sum, you should weigh the tax consequences of a lump sum with the potential stream of income over time.

Lump Sum + Installments

If a lump sum will create an unfavorable tax consequence, then you can structure the deal to take a smaller lump sum up-front, and then payments over time.  Most commonly sellers will take a lump sum that is just under the threshold of a tax bracket.  Installments can be made over a number of years that is consistent with your retirement plan.  Here you can increase the number of buyers by avoiding a high-cost lump sum for buyers.  In doing so, this may entice inside employees and/or family members who have worked hard within the company but cannot afford your asking price.  And because there is a partial payment up-front, buyers are motivated by their initial investment.

Installments Only

If selling to family and/or employees, installment payments are an affordable way to sell your business and avoid a lump sum tax burden.  However, business owners are often still involved using this method because employees don’t have as much “skin in the game.” This method often requires the owner’s expertise in maintaining operations.  In other words, you won’t get paid unless the business is able to sustain itself with its successors.  This strategy is recommended for smaller companies where the owners are able to work part-time and still have some degree of authority. It’s recommended that certain provisions be implemented that would cease payments in the event of a “dead beat” buyer/employee.

Self – Cancelling Installment Note

You can give your employees a business in exchange for a promissory note by using a “self–cancelling installment note.”   The promissory note is usually coupled with a personal guarantee signed by the employee.  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 lives past this time, the payments cease.  If the owner dies before this timeline, the payments cease.

For more information or to request a free consultation with a business and/or estate planning attorney, call Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723 or dan@baronlawcleveland.com.

 

Estate Planning Attorney

COVID-19 Funeral Reimbursement

Did you know that you can be reimbursed for the funeral expenses of a lost loved one that passed from COVID-19? COVID-19 has affected the lives of many Americans and their families, reimbursement of funeral costs is a little way to ease the grief of losing a loved one from this pandemic.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has started a program to reimburse those families that have lost someone due to the coronavirus. The application process starts April 12, 2021 and currently does not have an end date. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

• The death must have occurred in the United States, this includes U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia
• The death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19
• The applicant must be a United States citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020
• There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a United States citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien

Additionally, the following documentation should be gathered and kept for submission:
• An official death certificate – that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, U.S. Territories, or District of Columbia
• Funeral expenses documents – (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of the funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened
• Proof of funds received from other sources – specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources
If approved, you will receive your funeral assistance through a check by mail or direct deposit, depending on the option you choose when applying for assistance.

Unfortunately, there are some people who cannot apply for assistance if they fall under one of the following categories:
• A minor child cannot apply on behalf of an adult who is not a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified agent
• There are several categories of aliens that are lawfully present in the United States, but do not qualify for FEMA’s Individual and Households Program assistance, including this funeral assistance program. These include, but are not limited to:
o Temporary tourist visa holders
o Foreign students
o Temporary work visa holders
o Habitual residents such as citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Please keep in mind there is no online application, this is through the FEMA funeral assistance hotline 844-684-6333. Once your application has been submitted via phone, you will be provided an application number and will need to submit your supporting documents (death certificate, funeral expense receipts, etc.). The supporting documents can be submitted the following ways:
• Upload documents to your DisasterAssitance.gov account
• Fax Documents
• Mail Documents

If you were responsible for the funeral expenses of more than one person lost to coronavirus you may claim each funeral on your application. The limits for assistance are up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per application per state, territory, or District of Columbia.

This is a great program for families looking for assistance in the unexpected death of a loved one caused by COVID-19. For more information, please visit the link below. To schedule and appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys, contact Baron Law at 216-573-3723

Sources:
https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance#eligible

Trust Attorney Baron Law

Five Reasons Why Having a Family Trust is Better Than a Simple Will

When planning for your loved ones, one common misunderstanding is thinking that you have to be ultra-wealthy to need or benefit from a trust.  While a common misconception, a lack of knowledge in this area can be costly. Even if your estate is fairly small, you still want to avoid the high costs and inefficiency of probate, as well as providing asset protection for your children.  Family trust planning can protect your nest egg while also providing several other advantages over a simple will.

  1. Family Trusts Avoid Probate

Having a simple will is better than having no plan at all; however, a simple last will and testament does not avoid probate.  Probate is a court system designed to administer your will and pay creditors.  Unfortunately, the probate court can be costly and time consuming.  In fact, according to the AARP, the average estate will lose between 5-10 percent of assets when administered through probate. Also, the minimum time to administer a will in probate court is six months, but the average time in most counties is eleven months.

If properly created, a Family Trust can seamlessly transfer assets to your heirs while avoiding probate. There is not a minimum time of administration, and there are no probate fees.  Additionally, there are no court forms to fill out, and probate court has no involvement in the administration.

  1. Asset Protection

If you have minor children, then having a Family Trust becomes a must. A minor child cannot legally inherit your assets.  Even if it were possible, most parents would consider it unwise for their seventeen-year-old child to receive a large sum of money.  Family Trusts provide asset protection by holding assets in trust for your children’s benefit.  Even when your children become adults, the trust still provides asset protection against creditors, litigation, and divorce.  For example, if you passed away leaving a large sum to your forty-five-year-old child who has spending issues, a pending litigation, or a divorce in process, the trust would hold the assets until your child is in a better place in life.

In addition to concerns about children, another common asset protection measure, given divorce rates over fifty percent, occurs when individuals are 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.  The wife has two kids from a prior marriage. The husband has no kids except for step-children of the current marriage.  The wife passes away and leaves everything to her husband, and the contingent beneficiary naming her two kids.  Five years later, the husband remarries and creates a new estate plan naming his new spouse as primary beneficiary of his estate, the contingent naming his two step-children. Then the husband dies. The new spouse inherits everything and the children are accidentally (or in this case intentionally) disinherited.

Famous Last Words, “I would never get remarried!” In reality, this is a very typical example of the need for some level of control and strategy. A Family Trust in this example would solve the wife’s concerns entirely. And if this were not a second marriage, a Family Trust might still make sense for couples wanting to keep the estate within the family and avoid remarriage issues.  Moreover, the Family Trust in all circumstances would provide asset protection for children as mentioned above.

  1. Privacy

In addition to probate being time-consuming and costly, it is also public information.  Today, anyone can troll the probate docket observing how much money is in your estate, who the beneficiaries are, and what step in this long process you are in. This may sound harmless, but public knowledge can lead to scams against your beneficiaries, as well as placing information that you wouldn’t want available in cyberspace.  A Family Trust is a private design where only you and those you want involved will have access to your financial information and bequests.

  1. Control

Family Trusts provide control even after you have passed.  A simple will distributes assets outright as opposed to over time.  Family Trusts allow you implement conditions and asset protection strategies years after you have passed.  For example, you can dictate in your trust that your children will receive payments in thirds after achieving the ages of 30, 35, and 40.  Perhaps you have no children and you are leaving your assets to a sibling. In that case you can dictate that assets will not be distributed if your sibling is in a nursing home or receiving Medicaid.  Without a Family Trust, the assets in this second example would all go to the nursing home and/or would kick your sibling off their federal benefits.

  1. Efficiency

Family trusts are efficient and cost effective.  Although a Family Trust may cost more than a simple will to create, the amount of money saved after you have passed is worth the effort. Additionally, Family Trusts can be administered in a fraction of the time compared to probate. Finally, a Family Trust can be easily administered while creating a legacy for your family.

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

For more information on Family Trusts or to schedule a free consultation, contact Dan A. Baron at Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723 or dan@baronlawcleveland.com

About the Author:  Dan A. Baron is the founding member of Baron Law LLC focusing his practice to the areas of estate planning, business law, and elder law.   Dan was recently voted an Ohio Super Lawyer Rising Star, an award nominated by other competing attorneys and one that only five percent or less achieve.   Mr. Baron graduated with honors from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.  He holds a business degree from The University of Akron, cum laude, and is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, West Shore Bar Association, Akron Bar Association, Business Networking Institute, and American Bar Association.  Dan is also a member of the estate planning section at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

Probate Attorney

Top Reasons Why You Should Avoid Probate

Whether it was a gathering for a joyous wedding or the passing of a loved one, we’ve all heard about Probate Court at some point or another. We are going to dive into what probate is and why you want to avoid it when it comes to your estate, if you have no plan.

First, what is probate? Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death. You’re probably wondering “OK, but what does that mean?” It means:

The court will determine your assets at the time of your death.

The court will determine the value of those assets.

The court will distribute the assets to those that are entitled to them by law.

Probate court, during the process will also appoint someone to supervise the administration of your estate.

Why would I want to avoid this process? The main reasons to avoid probate are the extensive timeline and astronomical expense that are both required for probate. The minimum amount of time that is required by probate court is 6 months, but in actuality this process takes 14 – 18 months on average. The reason for this extensive timeline is to give creditors a chance to make a claim on your estate, this in turn reduces the inheritance intended for your loved ones.

The probate process is very expensive. The average cost for probate court is between 5 – 10% of the estate’s total value. This means if your estate is valued at $500,000 you can expect an average cost of between $25,000 – $50,000.

The probate court appoints someone that they deem “suitable” to administer your estate, if you have no plan. This means that your wishes will not be heard and your assets, including your personal property and belongings will be distributed by the court to whom is legally entitled.

Lastly, probate court is public record. This means that all of your assets, your heirs, and your debts are available for anyone to see. Privacy is something that should be valued during this sensitive period of bereavement.

This costly and lengthy process can be avoided with a proper estate plan put in place. Your assets should be distributed according to your wishes, not to who is just legally entitled to them. Your heirs should have the ability to access the inheritance you intend on leaving them, and your loved ones deserve the privacy and time it takes to mourn your loss.

If you have not previously considered an estate plan or have questions about how to get started on planning, contact us at Baron Law today. You can go to our website for a free consultation to start planning for the future for yourself and your loved ones.

 Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

 

About the author: Kristy Gross

Kristy is a Legal Assistant at Baron Law LLC kristy@baronlawcleveland.com.

Baron Law LLC Now Hiring Paralegals and Office Admin.

Baron Law LLC is currently hiring paralegals and office management.  Details for this position are detailed below.

Hours: 20-30 per-week

Pay: $20.00 – $32.00 per-hour depending on experience.

Remote Workplace: Applicant would be able to work remotely most of the time while coming into the Independence office as needed. During the temporary pandemic, the office would only be utilized once or twice a week. This position is expected to be full-time once COVID has settled down with benefits. This position is currently a 1099 position.

Experience: Ideal applicant would have some paralegal experience (greater than one year) in estate planning, probate, and/or elder law.

Skills: Detail oriented individual who is a self starter and able to manage multiple tasks. Must have ability and experience to use Microsoft word and excel. Must have ability to work remotely and manage office tasks such as drafting, coordinating with clients, writing letters, managing software systems, completing probate forms and filing, ect. Although not required, experience with Quckbooks Online and Clio would be greatly considered.

Education: High School diploma or greater.

To apply, submit your resume to dan@baronlawcleveland.com. 

Covid-19 Photo

COVID-19 and the Continuing Importance of Powers of Attorney

Certainty in this uncertain time is peace of mind many families are finding themselves without. The Covid-19 pandemic is highlighting harsh realities of life all of us were aware of but chose to ignore. One such reality is the importance of comprehensive and up-to-date estate planning. Many parents, grandparents, established business owners, and seasoned professionals are all awaking everyday to the potential of expensive and long-term hospitalization with the chance of persisting and life-changing health consequences. One can’t fight Covid-19 directly, it isn’t a person or thing to combat with force or wit, however, mitigation and foresight are always available. Estate planning will allow you to proactively get your affairs in order and, worst case scenario, if you become infected, allow you to rapidly and intelligently respond in a way that meets you and your families unique needs. Whether you have no estate plan or are looking to update an existing plan, where should you start? Given the current health crisis, taking a look at your powers of attorney, or POAs, is a good place to start.

Power of Attorney

A comprehensive estate plan provides the instructions necessary for estate administration, via a will, while tax relief and flexibility with asset distribution can be accomplished via trusts. Critical issues and decisions during life, however, must be addressed separately. That is where your powers of attorney come into play. A power of attorney comes in many forms, but its primary purpose is to grant authority to one or more responsible parties to handle financial or health decisions of a person in the event of illness or other incapacity. Life, and its associated obligations and burdens, tend to continue regardless of one’s physical or mental health. As many families are finding out, the bills keep coming due regardless of COVID-19. Powers of attorney are protection that ensures affairs are handled and medical wishes are followed even if you are lacking capacity in mind or body.

In your estate plan you will want both a financial power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. Both are agency agreements that grant another individual the authority to make decisions, within a certain sphere of decisions whose terms you dictate, on your behalf. A financial power of attorney, as the name suggests, grants your agent the authority to make financial decisions for you. Managing investments, buying selling land or property, representing you in business negotiations, etc. Healthcare power of attorney works the same way but with healthcare decisions. If you are incapacitated or otherwise can’t decide for yourself, your agent will decide who your doctor is, what treatment you undergo, what medication should be administered, etc.

As always, the terms, powers, and limits for your agents are decided by you in the documents that appoint your agent. If you want to add limits on how long they are appointed, what issues they can or cannot decide, or when exactly their powers manifest, you can do so. Furthermore, you always possess the authority to dismiss them outright or appoint someone new.

Powers of attorney are important to have because spouses or family members will face difficulty and frustration gaining access to things like bank accounts and property that is in your name only. This can be especially damaging within the context of business or professional relations in which the “gears of industry” must keep moving. Regrettably, if an individual trusted to handle the business if something happens doesn’t possess the authority to so, significant or even fatal business consequences may result. The same goes for medical decisions, often treatment decisions must be made right there and then. Hesitation may mean permanent damage or death to you and if someone doesn’t have express authority to make those decisions, things get confusing, messy, and take a lot longer.

If you decide not to draft one or more powers of attorney and you end up incapacitated, then, in certain situations, a court is forced to appoint either a guardian or conservator and the family is effectively cut off from independently managing the relevant affairs of the incapacitated family member. Further, if a court is forced to action, the entire process will take longer, cost more, be public knowledge, and is immensely more complex than it otherwise should be. Having an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney draft the appropriate POAs can avoid a lot of headache and save a lot of money down the line.

Even with the uncertainly pandemics bring, certain estate planning questions always linger. Who will manage my finances and investments if I am sick or incapacitated? Who will pick what doctor treats me or if a risky but potentially lifesaving procedure should be performed? What if I am put on life sustaining medical support? In what situations and for how long will I remain on such support, if I want to be on it at all? These types of issues and questions also must be addressed and accounted for by your estate plan. That is why finding and working with experienced Cleveland estate planning attorneys are so critical. These types of decisions and potential consequences for your life and wellbeing are not things that should be done on the fly or with doctors and stressed out family members demanding a decision. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 cases becoming more and more prevalent with each passing day, the necessity of proper POAs is crystal clear and those without these documents are scrambling to find estate planning attorneys who are open and still taking clients. If your estate planning documents, especially POAs are out of date or incomplete, contact a local estate planning attorney right away. Courthouses and government agencies are closing daily, and you don’t want to find yourself without the stability of critical legal documents during this most unstable time.

COVID-19, for good or ill, has and will continue to change how we live, work, and survive. Fortunately, one aspect of life that has largely gone untouched is estate planning. Estate planning was smart to do before Covid-19 and it still is. Northeast Ohio has felt the touch of this disease like every county in the world has. Cleveland estate planning attorneys are working around the clock to meet the historic demand for quick and immediate estate planning and are currently utilizing more teleconferencing and remote legal services than ever before to make their existing and new clients comfortable and secure. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are all proactive protection measures that the majority of Americans are following, even if they cause financial hardship or social strain. Estate planning also represents a proactive protection measure, however, it seldom causes any financial or social pain, it actually prevents them. As such, it’s strange that 50% of people don’t even have a simple will. Considering the ongoing crisis, make sure you and your family are in the 50% that protects, not the 50% leaving everything to chance.

Disclaimer:

The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The author nor Baron Law LLC cannot and does not guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Laws of a particular state or laws that may be applicable in a given situation may impact the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of the preceding information. Further, federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Changes in such laws often have material impact on estate planning and tax forecasts. As such, the author and Baron Law LLC make no warranties regarding the herein information or any results arising from its use. Furthermore, the author and Baron Law LLC disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or any financial position taken in reliance on, such information. As always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

CARES Act – What Every Business Owner Should Know

The Covid-19 Economic Relief Package was approved on Monday, March 30th. This unprecedented $2 trillion dollar stimulus package may be incredibly beneficial for our clients, especially business owners.  Here are some of the more significant points you should know:

  • Single-households that earn $75,000 or less a year (as per their latest tax return) will be supplied with a one-time payment of $1,200.
  • Couples who earn $150,000 annually will receive a one-time payment of $2,400 with an additional $500 per child within that household.
  • These benefits are capped around the $99,000 income level and tapper between $75,000 and $100,000.

Small business protection and aid is a major component of the stimulus package. The key points include:

  • Businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees are generally eligible for assistance. Further, self-employed workers and gig workers also qualify. Qualified borrowers must have been in business before February 15, and must have paid employee salaries and payroll taxes or contractors.
  • The program is meant to ensure that businesses have the funds to pay their employees and to prevent layoffs. Loans offered through the program are forgivable, if used for their intended purpose: As long as a business receiving a loan maintains the average size of its workforce, it will only need to pay back the interest accrued, and the principal will effectively become a grant.
  • Businesses can receive loans up to $10 million at up to 4% interest rates, depending on how much they paid their employees between January 1 and February 29.
  • Loans are provided through banks, credit unions, and other lenders, and are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Loan applications should be submitted through lenders who are partnered with the Small Business Administration.

Link to the 2020 Stimulus bill: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6819206-CARES-ACT-FINAL-TEXT.html

Trust Adminstrator

What is an Administrator of an Estate?

Managing the affairs and obligation of a recently departed is no easy task. That is why most people take the time to plan their estate. Estate planning, at its fundamental essence, is leaving a plan and instructions for those who survive you regarding what to do with the “stuff” you leave behind. People are living longer than ever before and, consequently, are leaving more behind. Often without a proper plan in place, the loved ones and family members left to organize and account all the leftover worldly possessions are hard pressed to do everything required from them by a probate court within the statutory time limits.

Dying without a will, only exacerbates this difficultly and lengthens the time it takes to administrator an estate. Bluntly, dying without a will, or dying with an invalid will, is never a preferential option. Most people already have a very limited understanding of the probate process, and if you throw intestate succession and administration, with all the accompanying issues and legal winkles, a difficult and trying process only becomes more so. As such, consult with an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney to either properly plan your estate so dying intestate doesn’t happen to you or, for those facing an instate administration, find out all the answers you need regarding what, how, and when to administrate an intestate estate.

What does dying intestate mean?

When a decedent does not have a valid will in existence at the time of death, a decedent is deemed to have died intestate and Ohio intestacy laws govern how estate assets are managed and distributed. There are two primary situations when a person is deemed to have died intestate, 1) there was no last will and testament, or 2) they had a last will and testament, but for some reason or another, it was found invalid.

Ohio intestacy laws may be avoided altogether with proper estate planning, a major aim of which is to ensure you have a will and that it is valid. It is important to note, however, that sometimes intestacy laws will control even if a valid will is subject to probate administration, an experienced estate planning attorney can inform you of these circumstances. Conversely, sometimes Ohio intestacy laws may not apply even if a decedent died intestate. As such, since the controlling law for dying without a last will and testament can vary dependent on circumstance, meeting with an estate planning and/or probate lawyer is highly recommended.

What is an administrator?

In the context of intestate estate administration, an administrator is, for the most part, functionally identical to an executor. Executors, however, are appointed in the last will and testament by the decedent while administrators are appointed by the probate court in the absence of an executor appointment. Note, however, that Ohio has explicit Ohio residency requirements for intestate administrators. Thus, out-of-state residents can only be named executors and cannot serve as administrators.

Why is an administrator needed, what do they do?

The duties of an administrator aren’t easy. The duties of an administrator are specific to each particular estate, however, there is a “core” group of duties and tasks each one must fulfill. Every administrator must:

  • Conduct of thorough search of decedent’s personal papers and attempt to create a complete picture of their finances and family structure.

 

  • Take possession, catalogue, and value all estate property.

 

  • Maintain and protect estate assets for the duration of the probate proceedings.

 

  • Directly notify creditors, debtors, financial institutions, utilities, and government agencies of decedent’s death.

 

  • Publish notices of decedent’s death, usually a newspaper obituary, which serves as notice and starts the clock running on the statute of limitations for creditor claims on the estate.

 

  • Pay or satisfy any outstanding debts or obligations of decedent.

 

  • Represent decedent during probate court proceedings.

 

  • Locate heirs and named beneficiaries and distribute respective assets at the appropriate time.

These duties occur during the probate process, which is a major reason why probate takes many months to complete. Especially within the context of intestate probate administration, where no preplanning, accounting, or collection of information regarding the decedent’s estate was likely done.

Because intestate administration is such a time-intensive and laborious process, many people take the time to plan their estate and attempt to avoid probate entirely. Often trusts are a good option to avoid probate. With trusts, estate assets can be distributed right away, no executor or administrator is needed, and many mornings, which otherwise would be spent in probate court, are freed for personal enjoyment. Contact an Ohio trust attorney to see if avoiding probate through the use of trusts is right for you and your family.

Disclaimer:

The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The author nor Baron Law LLC cannot and does not guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Laws of a particular state or laws that may be applicable in a given situation may impact the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of the preceding information. Further, federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Changes in such laws often have material impact on estate planning and tax forecasts. As such, the author and Baron Law LLC make no warranties regarding the herein information or any results arising from its use. Furthermore, the author and Baron Law LLC disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or any financial position taken in reliance on, such information. As always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future