Bypass Trusts

Ohio Bypass Trusts – Cleveland, Ohio Attorney

Cleveland, Ohio Trust Attorney

Ohio Bypass Trusts

Bypass trusts, or “credit shelter” trusts, have historically been an important estate planning tool that shields probate assets against estate taxes.  Most often, a bypass trust is found in your spouse’s will.  Each spouse directs that if you are the first spouse to die, then your solely owned assets be used to fund the bypass trust with up to whatever personal estate tax exemption is at the time.  Since 2013, the estate tax exemption is $5.25 million.  After death, money is used to fund the trust.  The money can come from a variety of sources including, probate assets, assets in a revocable living trust, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts.  Note however, that some retirement accounts cannot avoid certain federal taxes.

For example, say Molly dies leaving her son $1 million in a 401K plan.  Molly directs the money to a trust.  The trustee is to pay the trust ‘income’ to the son annually, and distribute the principal to the son when he reaches age 35.  The 401k plan distributes a $million lump sum to the trustee a few days after Molly’s death.  Barring an unusual provision in the trust instrument or applicable state law, the entire $1 million plan distribution is considered the trust ‘corpus.’  On the federal income tax return for the trust’s first year, the trust must report $1 million in gross income.  The trustee invests the money that’s left after paying the income tax on the distribution, and pays the income from the investments each year to Molly’s son.

If properly structured, assets in a bypass trust will not be included in your surviving spouse’s estate.  Instead, the money will ‘bypass’ your spouse’s taxable estate at their death and pass tax free.  Any amount in excess of the current federal estate tax exemption would then be distributed outright to the surviving spouse or is used to fund a marital trust or qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust.

Although bypass trusts have been used for years, they have become somewhat unnecessary.  Since 2013, the new laws allow a surviving spouse take up to $5.25 million tax free.  This is because the new laws allow this amount under the federal estate tax exemption.   Thus, unless you have a fairly large amount of assets, a living will would do the trick and allow for $5.25 million to be passed on tax free.

For larger estates, bypass trusts can offer advantages.  For example, growth in the assets of a bypass trust are not excluded from the gross estate of the surviving spouse and may run up against the estate tax exemption amount in effect when the surviving spouse dies.  In addition, any lifetime gifts you make that are taxable will decrease your estate tax exemption amount – decreasing the amount that can be put into the trust at your death.

For more information on trusts, living wills, or other estate planning tools, call Cleveland, Ohio attorney Dan Baron at Baron Law.  Baron Law provides legal representation to business owners and individuals.  Call today for a free consultation at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with a Cleveland, Ohio attorney who can help you with your legal needs.

Baron Law LLC

Debt after Death – What Every Family Member Should Know

Cleveland, Ohio Probate Attorney
Debt after Death – What Every Family Member Should Know

You come home one day to find a letter from a credit card company demanding $5,000 for the debt of your late husband. The credit card company demands payment and threatens to take legal action against you if the debt is not paid. Don’t be afraid of these bullies. Here’s what you need to know.

First, the credit card company is correct in their efforts to collect a debt from the estate. Debts to not die with the deceased but instead go through the estate. However, creditors cannot hold you personally liable. Instead, in most cases, creditors may only assert claims against the estate. If the debts exceed the value of the estate, then the creditors may not come after family members.

Of course, there are exceptions. When dealing with the debt of a deceased person it’s important to consider whether you’re a co-signer on a note. Each account holder can be held legally responsible for an outstanding balance. Thus, if you co-signed for a mortgage or a car loan, you are still personally responsible for the debt. Using the example above, let’s say that you never used the credit card and all the purchases were your late husband’s. Unfortunately, if you co-signed the credit card application then you’re still liable for the debts. This rule only applies to co-signers, not authorized users.

It is the role of the executor of the estate to pay the deceased person’s outstanding bills. It is recommended that executors contact a qualified probate attorney to understand the probate laws and processes. If you are not the executor of the estate but are receiving phone calls and/or letters asking you to pay, you should refer the creditor to the executor. If they are persistent, send a certified letter stating that the person is deceased and you are not responsible for paying the debt. Don’t let yourself be intimidated into paying a debt you are not responsible for. If the bill collector is making claims you don’t believe are true, such as saying you are a co-signer on the account, ask for proof. Let them know you are aware of your rights and will report them if they do not stop calling you. Harassing bill collectors can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (877-382-4357) and state attorney general’s office.

In sum, heirs and loved ones are not responsible for a decedent’s debts. If the person incurred the debt in his name alone, creditors either receive payment through the probate process or they don’t receive payment at all. For more information regarding probate and estate planning contact Cleveland, Ohio probate attorney Dan Baron. Call today for a free consultation at 216-573-3723. Baron Law LLC is your Cleveland, Ohio estate planning law firm.

cleveland attorney

Can Lawyers Draft Wills for Out-of-State Residents?

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney

Perhaps for most estate planning attorneys, the relationships built among clients can last for decades.  Because of the duration of the relationship, it’s not unusual for an estate planning attorney to receive requests for legal assistance from clients who have changed their residence to a state in which the attorney is not licensed.   As a Cleveland, Ohio attorney, I’m sometimes asked to prepare estate planning documents for out-of-state residents.   Recently, a Cleveland, Ohio friend asked if I would draft a will and power of attorney for his parents who reside in New York.  Thus, several questions arose: Can a Cleveland, Ohio attorney draft a will for an out-of-state resident?   At what point does an attorney’s assistance cross the line into unauthorized practice of law? Does the client’s change in residence to a state in which the attorney is not licensed require the termination of professional relationship or can it continue in some modified form?

These questions lead to what any knowledge seeker would do: a google search!  Not surprisingly, the google search did not provide a concrete answer – and it shouldn’t – so I proposed these questions to several Cleveland attorneys who have been doing estate planning for over 20 years.   One attorney said, “Sure, you can draft a will for a non-resident, but just don’t sign your name to it.”  Another attorney emphatically said, “No, drafting a will for a non-Ohio resident would be a violation of the Ohio Model Rules of Professional Conduct which prohibits the unauthorized practice of law.”   After hearing several conflicting opinions on the matter, I soon realized that this is a common issue, and deciding one way or the other can mean the difference between business as usual, or disbarment.

For the Ohio family estate planner, the main question is whether or not the family estate planner’s practice constitutes the unauthorized practice of law in another state.  The test for what constitutes unauthorized practice of law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but most states have adopted model rule 5.5.  Unfortunately, no jurisdiction provides a comprehensive definition of practice of law.  As a result, the definition of the term “practice of law” is left to the courts to determine.   At this point, the federal courts have refused to hold that a state’s prohibition on unauthorized practice of law should apply only to persons who apply the state’s law and not to those who provide legal advice solely concerning federal law. See 1 Family Estate Planning Guide § 19:19 (4th ed.) See also Spanos v. Skouras Theatres Corp., 364 F.2d 161 (2d Cir. 1966).  A clear example of this involves an attorney who advertises or implies that he is licensed to practice in that state.  See The Florida Bar v. Kaiser, 397 So. 2d 1132 (Fla. 1981).  But most attorneys know enough not to promote their practice in a state they aren’t licensed to practice law.

In many instances, it’s easy to discern when an attorney is breaching rule 5.5.   In fact, courts have provided several examples of what constitutes the “practice of law” for estate planning lawyers not licensed in the state.  For example, giving legal advice concerning the application, preparation, advisability, or quality of any legal instrument or document or forms thereof in connection with the gift of property is the practice of law.  See Florida Bar re Advisory Opinion-Non-lawyer Preparation of Living Trusts, 613 So. 2d 426 (Fla., 1993).   In another case, an individual gave a client legal advice and practiced law by aiding the client in designating probate and non-probate assets, selecting a form of trust, designating various beneficiaries, and determining tax treatment.  The conduct was also considered the practice of law. See Akron Bar Ass‘n v. Miller, 80 Ohio St. 3d 6, 1997-Ohio-364, 684 N.E.2d 288 (Ohio, 1997).

Drafting a will for an out-of-state resident likely falls within one of the examples above, and therefore is unauthorized.   However a determination that the requested assistance is the practice of law in a jurisdiction in which the attorney does not hold a license is not dispositive.   Ohio rule MR 5.5 lists six exceptions to the general prohibition against the practice of law in a jurisdiction without a license.  Of the six exceptions, some allow legal representation in another state on a “temporary basis.”   The comment to the rule describes this exception in very broad terms.  It includes the following factors for determining whether the representation relates to an attorney’s practice:

1 The lawyer’s client may have been previously represented by the lawyer, or may be resident in or have substantial contacts with the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted.

2 The matter, although involving other jurisdictions, may have a significant connection with that jurisdiction.

3 Significant aspects of the lawyer’s work might be conducted in that jurisdiction or a significant aspect of the matter may involve the law of that jurisdiction.

4 The necessary relationship might arise when the client’s activities or the legal issues involve multiple jurisdictions, such as when the officers of a multinational corporation survey potential business sites and seek the services of their lawyer in assessing the relative merits of each.

5 In addition, the services may draw on the lawyer’s recognized expertise developed through the regular practice of law on behalf of clients in matters involving a particular body of federal, nationally uniform, foreign, or international law. See also MULTIJURISDICTIONAL PRACTICE OF LAW ISSUES IN ESTATE PLANNING, 40 ESTPLN 23, 30, 2013 WL 2407104, 11

The Restatement (third) of Law Governing Lawyers appears to provide even more flexibility.  In the estate planning context, for instance, the Restatement includes the following example:

Lawyer is admitted to practice and has an office in Illinois, where Lawyer practices in the area of trusts and estates, an area involving, among other things, both the law of wills, property, taxation, and trusts of a particular state and federal income, estate, and gift tax law. Client A, whom Lawyer has represented in estate-planning matters, has recently moved to Florida and calls Lawyer from there with a request that leads to Lawyer’s preparation of a codicil to A’s will, which Lawyer takes to Florida to obtain the necessary signatures. While there, A introduces Lawyer to B, a friend of A, who, after learning of A’s estate-planning arrangements from A, [asks] Lawyer to prepare a similar estate arrangement for B. Lawyer prepares the necessary documents and conducts legal research in Lawyer’s office in Illinois, frequently conferring by telephone and letter with B in Florida. Lawyer then takes the documents to Florida for execution by B and necessary witnesses. Lawyer’s activities in Florida on behalf of both A and B were permissible. See Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers § 3 (2000) § 3 cmt. e

Rule 5.5 and the Restatement may provide latitude for estate planning lawyers to practice law in other states, but drafting a will for a non-resident still appears to be forbidden.   Nonetheless, the temporary basis for representation that “arises out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice” is an exception that many estate planning lawyers rely on.   In fact, much of what estate planning attorneys do may be permissible under this exception.  For example, the following may be permissible.

  1. Preparing state income and estate tax returns for a State A decedent or the trust of a State A decedent for interests with situs in another state or preparing such returns for a State A decedent or the trust of a non-State A decedent with respect to property situs in State A.
  2. Representing non-State A clients with probate proceedings in a State A court (e.g., probates, guardianships, and trust administrations under the jurisdiction of a State A).
  3. Providing a client, who resides in State A, or a trustee of a trust, with situs in State A, with general analysis of the laws of another state without making an appearance in a court or consummating a transaction in such state.

Aside from the rules, the practical aspects of drafting a will for an out-of-state resident are not favorable.   Each state has their own set of rules with complying with the formalities of executing a will.  In Ohio, two signatures are required but in other states, three or more signatures may be required.  Thus, even though a client may come to your Ohio office to execute a will, the will may not be acceptable in other states.  Many states allow a will drafted in one state to be valid in another; however, the risk of invalidating a will based on improper execution is a risk not worth taking.

In sum, an Ohio attorney should think twice about drafting a will for a client living out-of-state.  Even if the client comes to an attorney’s Ohio office, the fact that the client resides in another state raises ethical issues.  The unauthorized practice of law is a serious violation of Ohio ethical rules and risks the possibility of disbarment.

The above is not legal advice.  Should you need advice on drafting a will, a power of attorney, divorce, or other estate planning matters, call an attorney at Baron Law LLC.  Baron Law LLC is a Cleveland, Ohio law firm representing individuals and businesses needing advice on estate planning, divorce, and business law.  Call today at 216-276-4282.

Baron Law LLC

Living Trusts vs. Testamentary Trust

Living Trusts vs. Testamentary Trusts

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Dan Baron:

If you’re planning for your Ohio estate plan, then you’re probably lost among the many estate planning terminologies. However, there are numerous estate planning methods to provide safety and security for your family.  There are many ways to achieve this including living trusts, testamentary trusts, wills, legacy trusts, power of attorney’s and more.    If you have minor children (under the age of 18) it is often suggested to implement a testamentary trust into your last will and testament.  How is this different from a living trust you ask?  Here ‘s some additional insight…

First, if you’re trying to decide between a trust or a will, please see this link. However, if you have children, a testamentary trust is often recommended for your estate planning needs.  A testamentary trust is created in your last will and testament.  Thus, unlike a living trust, a testamentary trust will not take effect until you die.  The terms of the trust are amendable and revocable – they can be changed at any time.   It is highly recommended to include a testamentary trust in your will for parents who are at risk of dying at the same time.

Example: Husband and Wife have $1,000,000 in assets including a house, stock, and automobiles.  Both Husband and Wife die in a car accident and leave behind three children ages 4,6, and 11.  Because their children have not reached the age of 18, they may not have a claim to the money until they reach the age of maturity – age 18.

A testamentary trust can help avoid the scenario above.  Through the trust, you may set parameters on your estate.  For example, you might include terms that allow for $1,000 a week to be given to your children in the event both parents pass.  Or, you might hold off on giving your children any money until they reach the age of 21, 25, attain a degree, get married, etc.  Having a testamentary trust allows you to control your estate even after your death.  Note however that if only one parent dies in the example above, the testamentary trust does not take effect.  Instead, most often times the dying spouse leaves all of the estate to their spouse.  In that instance, the remaining spouse would determine how and when the money is distributed among the children.  Side note – you cannot disinherit your spouse…

Contrary to a testamentary trust, a living trust – or inter-vivos trust – takes effect at its creation. These trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable.   Inter-vivos is Latin for “among the living persons.”  So, if I were to decide to give you my boat, then that would be an inter-vivos transfer.  Typically, a living trust must contain a trustee (a person responsible for carrying out the wishes of the creator), and a beneficiary (the persons receiving the benefit of the trust).  In Ohio, you as the creator of the trust may not be the beneficiary of the trust unless you elect to set up an Ohio legacy trust.  Put simply, a living trust is one that is created during your lifetime.   Living trusts are often recommended for those who wish to avoid probate or want to keep their assets private.

For more information, contact Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney Dan Baron at Baron Law LLC.  Baron Law is a Cleveland, Ohio are law firm practicing in the areas of estate planning, divorce, business law, and securities litigation.  Contact an trust attorney at Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can answer all your trust and estate planning questions.

Baron Law LLC

Estate Planning – Protecting your Children Through Testamentary Trusts

From Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Dan Baron:

Estate planning attorneys will tell you that testamentary trusts are a great way to protect your children and plan for your estate.  Below are 10 things to know about testamentary trusts and how they might fit into your estate plan.  To learn more, contact Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney Dan Baron at Baron Law LLC.

  1. What is a testamentary trust?

A testamentary trust is a trust usually coupled with your last will and testament.  Contrary to many living trusts, a testamentary trust is revocable and will not take effect until you die.  The trust provides for the distribution of all or part of an estate and often proceeds from a life insurance policy held on the person establishing the trust.   You can have more than one testamentary trust in your will.

  1. Why choose a testamentary trust?

Most often a testamentary trust is used to protect your children.  For example, if husband who has a will dies in an automobile accident, his estate would pass to his wife.  However, if both husband and wife are die in the accident, leaving their two minor children behind, a simple will will not provide a plan for the estate. Thus, a testamentary trust may provide guidelines as to how the estate is passed to their children.   There are other trusts to consider.  Contact your estate planning attorney to learn more.

  1. How do you create a testamentary trust?

As mentioned above, the most common way in Ohio to create a testamentary trust is to include the necessary language in your will.  The creator of the trust (known as the “settlor”) dedicates a Trustee who then administers trust.  For example, in the event both spouses die, the trust might make the estate pass to their children at the age of 18.  Or, the estate might pass in the even one of the kids gets married.  It is recommended that an estate planning attorney create your trust.

  1. When is a testamentary trust created?

Unlike living trusts, the money is not distributed automatically.  Many people believe that testamentary trusts avoid probate.  However, there still are some probate considerations that are involved.  In Ohio, typically a testamentary trust begins at the completion of the probate process after the death of the person who has created it.  It is recommended that an estate planning attorney help guide you through setting up the trust.

  1. What is the term?

A testamentary trust lasts until it expires, which is provided for in its terms. Typical expiration dates may be when the beneficiary turns 25 years old, graduates from university, or gets married.

  1. How is the probate court involved?

As mentioned above, a testamentary trust will not automatically take effect.  Before the creator dies,  the probate court checks up on the trust to make sure it is being handled properly.  Once the creator dies, the beneficiaries of the estate should contact an estate planning attorney to carry out the trust.

  1. Who can be the trustee of a testamentary trust?

Anyone can be a Trustee for a testamentary trust.  However, it is recommended that the Trustee be someone that the creator trusts.  The Trustee will have great responsibility in administering the deceased’s wishes.

  1. Does the trustee have to honor the terms set out for expenditures in the will?

It depends.  Ultimately it is up to the Trustee to determine whether a certain act or time has occurred in order to distribute the estate.  Some of these events are very easy to figure out.  For example, if the trust provides that the estate be distributed upon a marriage, that event is easy to determine.  Conversely, if the trust provides that a certain dollar amount be distributed upon a child “finding a good job,” it becomes more subjective for the Trustee.  Thus, it’s imperative to hire a qualified estate planning attorney to help draft a will or trust.

  1. When can I opt out of a trust?

Generally, if the person’s estate is small in comparison to the potential life insurance proceeds or other amounts that will be paid to the estate at death, a testamentary trust may be advisable.

  1. How much does it cost to set up a testamentary trust?

It is generally inexpensive to set up a will with a testamentary trust.  In most cases, attorney Dan Baron at Baron Law LLC can set up a testamentary trust for less than $1,000.  If the estate plan is more complicated, the legal fees may be higher.  If you are interested in setting up a trust or estate plan, contact a Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney.  Call Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can help with your estate planning needs.

wills and trusts attorney

How Does a Minimum Required Distribution Affect My Retirement?

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney

If your retirement portfolio contains a Simple Employee Pension (“SEP”), or Simple IRA, you need to know how the minimum distribution system works.  Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney Dan Baron provides the following remarks.

One major attraction to IRA’s and other estate planning tools is the ability to accumulate funds inside the plan on a tax-deferred basis. The minimum distribution rules dictate when this tax-sheltered accumulation must start coming out of a retirement plan, and, when they end.  Congress enacted the minimum required distribution rules to compel annual distributions from your retirement plan beginning typically at age 70 ½.  Estate planning and tax attorneys need to know the minimum required distribution rules because these rules set the outer limits on plan accumulations; moreover, failure to comply with rules results in penalties.

Is Your Retirement Plan Subject to the Rules?

Minimum required distributions apply to “Qualified Retirement Plans.”  IRA’s and 403(b) plans fall under the rules of qualified retirement plans.  However, Roth IRA’s are subject to the IRA minimum distribution rules only after the participant’s death.

Timing of a Minimum Required Distribution

If your retirement plan contains one of the above mentioned funds, there are many things to understand.  First, the starting point for lifetime required distributions is approximately age 70 ½ (or upon later retirement in some cases).  The starting point for post-death distributions is measured from the participant’s death.  Once the distributions start, the beneficiary must take distributions no later than December 31.  However, there are several exceptions to this rule including the “5 year exception” and rollovers.  Contact a tax attorney or estate planning attorney to learn more.

How is the Minimum Distribution Determined?

Each year’s minimum required distribution is determined by dividing the prior year-end account balance by a factor from an IRS table.  The amount is computed by dividing an annually-revalued account balance by an annually-declining life expectancy factor.  Taking more than the required amount in one year does NOT give you a credit you can use to reduce distributions in a later year.  Further, the distributions you elect cannot exceed 100 percent of the account balance.  Contact Cleveland, Ohio attorney Dan Baron to learn more on how this minimum distribution affects your retirement plant.

As you can see, there are numerous rules that affect your retirement and taxes.   Contact a Cleveland, Ohio attorney who can help you understand more about minimum required distributions or other estate planning rules.  Cleveland, Ohio estate planning Dan Baron can help you with your tax planning and estate planning goals.  Contact Cleveland, Ohio attorney Dan Baron at 216-573-3723.