family sitting around elder

Benefits Of A Family Trust As Part Of My Estate Plan

Many people think trusts are for the affluent, but in actuality, family trusts are a powerful planning tool for individuals and families across the wealth spectrum.

We encourage you to carefully consider the differences between a will and a trust when crafting your estate plan. A will distributes assets outright upon your death. A trust allows you more customization and control over when and how your assets are distributed.

Here are a couple examples:

  • In a will, you can state that you’d like a certain sum of money to be given to each of your grandchildren. They will receive that sum upon your death. In a trust, you can state that your grandchildren only receive the sum once they turn 18 and that it may only be used for technical school or college tuition.
  • In a will, you can dictate that each of your children receive a portion of your assets. They will inherit those assets upon your death.
  • In a trust, you can control how and when the assets are received. For example, you can dictate in your trust that children receive payments in thirds after reaching the ages of 30, 35 and 40.
  • In a will, you might leave assets to a sibling. If that sibling is in a nursing home, the home could end up with your assets or they could kick your sibling off federal benefits. If you establish a trust, you can dictate that the assets will not be distributed if your sibling is in a nursing home or receiving Medicaid.

In This Article:

What Is A Family Trust?

Put simply, a family trust is a set of instructions that tell others what you want to happen to your assets after you’ve passed, and in some cases, while you’re still living.

A family trust is different from other types of trusts in that the beneficiaries are limited to family members, like a surviving spouse or children.

Whether a family trust is right for you will depend on your financial situation, your family’s unique needs and your goals.

How Does A Family Trust Work?

To protect, manage and distribute assets, there are three key roles.

  1. A grantor establishes the trust.
  2. A trustee (an individual or third-party fiduciary) manages the trust and makes decisions or hires someone to make decisions about investments, distributions and other financial matters. Trustees are bound by legal obligations to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. They distribute assets or income generated from the trust’s assets to the beneficiaries based on the terms of the trust.
  3. Beneficiaries – in this case family members – benefit from the assets in the trust.

What Are The Types of Family Trusts?

There are two main types of family trusts: revocable and irrevocable.

Revocable family trusts are often used as living trusts to document how you want your assets to be managed and distributed both while you’re living and after you’re gone. They allow you to retain more control because you can change the trust’s terms at any time and can add or withdraw assets.

With a revocable trust, you can serve as trustee and name a successor trustee to take over when you are no longer able to. This can be especially helpful to your family if you reach a point in your lifetime where you become ill or are unable to manage your assets. Your successor trustee can make distributions on your behalf, pay bills, file tax returns and more.

An irrevocable family trust cannot be changed once created. It is often used as an estate planning tool to reduce estate taxes or protect assets from creditors.

There are many additional types of family trusts for specific purposes or benefits. Some common types include:

Testamentary trusts are created in the grantor’s will and take effect after he or she dies. They can be used to distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the grantor’s wishes and to help protect assets from creditors.

Special needs trusts help parents or grandparents ensure that children with disabilities have the financial resources they need to maintain their quality of life without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.

Asset protection trusts help protect assets from creditors and lawsuits. They are often used by individuals and families at a high risk of being sued, such as business owners.

If you are considering setting up a family trust, an estate planning attorney can help you determine which type of trust is right for you.

They will evaluate your needs and goals to not only set up the trust, but also to maintain it properly over time.

What Are The Benefits Of A Family Trust Vs. A Will?

Family Trusts Avoid Probate

Having a will is better than having no plan at all; however, a last will and testament does not avoid probate. Probate is a court system designed to administer your will and pay creditors. All of the assets controlled by your will go through probate to be verified and distributed according to your wishes.

The probate court can be costly and time consuming. According to the AARP, the average estate will lose 5-10 percent of assets when administered through probate. For example, if you have a five hundred thousand dollar estate, at a minimum, you’re going to spend twenty-five thousand dollars administering it through probate.

Not only is it costly, but also it is time consuming. The minimum time to administer a will in probate court is six months, but the average time in most counties is eleven months.

If established properly, a family trust can transfer assets to your heirs while avoiding probate. There will be no probate fees and no no minimum administration time.

Family Trusts Minimize Federal or State Taxes

Without a family trust, an individual who finds themselves over the federal exemption limit could face 40-45% in estate taxes. A family trust can significantly reduce or eliminate these taxes by allowing a surviving spouse to make certain tax elections. This is commonly known as “marital deduction planning.”

A family trust allows the surviving spouse to set aside a portion of the estate, including the growth, tax free. For example, if the federal exemption were $1 million, and a surviving spouse is left with $5 million, with the trust, he or she could set aside $4 million in trust and the entire balance (including growth) after the death of the second spouse, would be tax free. Without the trust, the heirs would be paying 40% on $4 million in estate taxes.

Family Trusts Protect & Preserve Your Assets

If you have minor children, then establishing a family trust becomes a must. A minor child cannot legally inherit your assets.

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.

Another common asset protection measure 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. For example, a husband and wife in their second marriage care for two children the wife has from her prior marriage. The wife passes away and leaves everything to her husband, and the contingent beneficiaries are her two children. Five years later, the husband remarries and creates a new estate plan naming his new spouse as primary beneficiary of his estate and his two step-children as contingent beneficiaries. When the husband dies, the new spouse inherits everything and the children are accidentally or intentionally disinherited.

Family Trusts Offer Privacy

When you go through probate, all of your information – assets, beneficiaries and more – become public record. Establishing a trust will allow you to avoid probate and maintain your privacy.

Family Trusts Are Cost-Efficient

Having a trust is more cost- effective than a will. Because the trust allows you to avoid 6-18 months of probate costs, more of your legacy is preserved for your family.

How Do I Set Up A Family Trust?

The exact process varies, but the following are key steps that your family trust attorney will walk you through.

  1. Decide what assets will be placed in your trust. While you might already have an idea of what you’d like to include, your attorney may help you uncover some additional assets that would benefit from being placed in a trust. Assets can range from cash and investments to real estate and other property.
  2. Choose your beneficiaries. They might include your spouse, your children, grandchildren or other close family members.
  3. Establish the rules of your trust. For example, will assets be distributed with age requirements or terms for how the assets may be used?
  4. Determine who will manage the trust. The manager of the trust, called the trustee, could be yourself, someone you know or a third party, such as a financial institution.

Once you are confident in these decisions, your family trust attorney can draft the trust document.

To learn more about how to set up a family trust with Baron Law or to schedule a free consultation, call 216-573-3723 or submit your request online.

House in Trust with Mortgage

Can I Put My House In A Trust If It Has A Mortgage?

More and more people are becoming ever more concerned with either protecting their assets, maintaining eligibility for Medicaid, or leaving as much as possible to children and future grandkids. As such, more and more people are realizing the remarkable utility of trusts within their estate planning. One’s residence often represents the most significant asset an individual or couple possesses, and for many, financial assistance is needed to purchase it, that is mortgages. A common question presented to Cleveland estate planning attorneys is, can protect my house with a trust if it has a mortgage? As with any legal question, the answer is not black and white. 

  • What is trust? 

To understand how the what, when, and how of funding your trust with a mortgaged house, we must start with the basics, what is a trust? A trust, to put it simply, is a private agreement that allows a third party, a trustee, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. There are innumerable types of trusts, each with own its respective legal conventions and purposes. A critical aspect of trusts is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust creator’s taxable estate. Thus, when the owner of the trust creates the trust and properly funds it, the assets go from the owner’s taxable estate to the trust. Afterwards, when the owner dies, the assets are not in the owner’s estate and subject to probate, and if the trust is drafted properly, are further ignored for the purposes of Medicaid eligibility. Further, trust assets pass via the beneficiary designations set down when the trust was created. These conveyances via beneficiary designation are much simpler, quicker, and cost-effective then going through probate and can be halted or expedited when circumstantially advantageous depending on the terms of the trust.   

  • When can a mortgage be called?  

The next basic to understand is when can your bank come after your house, i.e. a bank calling on a mortgage. A mortgage being called is when a financial institution/holder of the mortgage demands that the full amount of a mortgage be paid. When this can occur is conditional and which events will trigger are often denoted within the mountain of legal documents that physically make up your mortgage. In the context of funding a trust with a mortgaged house, your “due-on-sale clause” is what your estate planning attorney will be concerned about.    

A “due-on-sale clause” is a contract provision which authorizes a lender (your bank), at its discretion, to collect on the loan, i.e. declare it immediately due and payable if all or any part of the property, or an interest therein, securing the real property loan is sold or transferred without the lender’s prior written consent. This is fair because banks depend on mortgages getting paid off, or at least foreclosed, and the mortgage contract is between you and the bank, not the potential buyers and the bank.  

  • How can a mortgaged house in placed in trust without having the mortgage called?  

Any “due-on-sale clause” facially seems to be a death nail to any thought of funding trust with a mortgaged house, I mean, not many people have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in liquid assets to immediately pay off a house. This is where the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 comes into play and your estate planning attorney earns his money. The relevant part of the Garn-St. Germain Act in the context is 12 U.S. Code § 1701j–3, subsection d, as follows:  

(d) Exemption of specified transfers or dispositions.  With respect to a real property loan secured by a lien on residential real property containing less than five dwelling units, including a lien on the stock allocated to a dwelling unit in a cooperative housing corporation, or on a residential manufactured home, a lender may not exercise its option pursuant to a due-on-sale clause upon— […] 

(8) a transfer into an inter vivos trust in which the borrower is and remains a beneficiary and which does not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property; … 

So, to bring everything back down to Earth, this subsection possesses the two “prongs” of the Garn-St. Germain test, occupancy and beneficiary status for the trust makers for the mortgaged house. When there is a mortgage, a trust must be properly drafted to include specified reserved occupancy language in the trust to satisfy the occupancy prong of Garn-St. Germain. Simply, the trust makers, you, must specifically reserve the right to live in the house. Further, in some way, the trust makers, must be a trust beneficiary. The beneficiary status prong usually isn’t an issue with self-settled trusts given their nature, i.e. trusts made with the intent to provide some tangible benefit to the trust makers. An argument can be made that the reservation of occupancy rights inherently makes the settlors beneficiaries, however, more cautious estate planning attorneys further make trust makers income beneficiaries as well.  

Facially, drafting a trust to satisfy the prongs of the Garn-St. Germain test appears straight-forward, however, care must be taken when making your trust. The interplay between the actual language of a trust can have profound effects on taxation, ownership, inheritance, and eligibility for state and federal assistance programs whose admittance guidelines are based on income and asset thresholds.    

Now it is important to note that the issue of a mortgage is an issue apart from Medicaid eligibility, though often the two are interrelated. Addressing both concerns requires the same solution, precise drafting of trust language that is statutorily compliant.  Under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, placing the home in the MAPT does not trigger the “due on sale clause” contained in most mortgages provided certain steps are taken and legal standards are satisfied. Thus, with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, you can remain Medicaid eligible and avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery, while still living in your home and paying the mortgage as you always have.  

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For the Future

Special Needs Self Settled Trusts

The Three Flavors of Special Needs Trusts: #3 Self-Settled Trusts

The federal “Special Needs Trust Fairness Act,” enacted in December of 2016, changed the law to allow individuals with special needs to create their own special needs trust. Ohio law, in response, has changed to coincide with this recent change. Currently, a mentally or physically disabled person may create a self-settled trust to hold their own assets and avoid them being counted for Medicaid or other public assistance program eligibility. Usually the need arises to make this type of trust when a person with special needs receives a legal settlement or inheritance while already eligible and receiving government assistance.

In a nutshell, “self-settled” special needs trusts are simply trusts established by the disabled beneficiary with the beneficiary’s own money and assets.  The devil, however, is in the details. Self-settled special needs trusts are, by regulatory requirements, only available to those persons who are 1) disabled and 2) are under 65 years of age. Further, the trust must be appropriately drafted to include language that mandates that the cost of Medicaid services actually paid on the individual’s behalf will be paid back to Ohio at the individual’s death. Thus, in an indirect way, the Department of Medicaid and other government program will get their money and be reimbursed, at the point of death, but the individual reliant on government assistance can still maintain eligibility. Therefore, both parties win. Note, however, the use and drafting of self-settled special needs trusts is nuanced. For example, with these trusts once a beneficiary reaches 65, the trust can no longer be funded with new assets or money. Yes, what is already in the trust will remain protected, but flexibility and control is lesser than with other types of special needs trusts. As such, always consult an experienced Cleveland area estate planning attorney when deciding which type of special needs trusts is appropriate for you and your family.

A self-settled special needs trusts are often referred to as a “Medicaid payback trust.” Both names refer to the same type of trust, however, the later name focuses on the primary characteristic, and requirement, of a self-settled special needs trust, in that any Medicaid resources or services received by the beneficiary will be paid back from the assets housed within the trust. A partial corollary is a Miller trust. A Miller trust houses income for those receiving nursing home care that would otherwise put them over the income thresholds for the Medicaid income cap. The income is kept in trust and used to pay for care, but relevant here, names the State of Ohio as a beneficiary under the trust. Thus, the State of Ohio can recover the total amount of Medicaid payments made to an individual after death.

Self-settled special needs trusts are different from Miller trusts in that they allow for a much greater breath of resources allowed to be placed in trust and does not set the State of Ohio as a direct beneficiary under the trust. Naming a person or entity as a trust beneficiary grants them certain rights and privileges which, in certain circumstances, can lead to headaches and issues for the special needs person and their families.

Often self-settled special needs trusts are estate planning instruments of last resort. Usually within the context of an unexpected windfall going to a person with special needs. Going the self-settled route also places administrative labor and costs of the trust on the special needs person. Further the requirements of specific drafting to be legally operative under Ohio law is usually something laypersons are ill-equipped to do themselves. As such, always consult an experienced Cleveland area estate planning attorney when deciding which type of special needs trust is good for you and your family. The stakes are too high to do things ill-informed.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Special Needs Trust #2 photo

The Three Flavors of Special Needs Trusts: #2 Pooled Trusts

Baron Law LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, offers information for you to reflect upon while you are setting out looking for an estate planning attorney to help protect as much of your assets as you can. For more comprehensive information contact Baron Law Cleveland to draft your comprehensive estate plan to endeavor to keep more of your assets for your heirs and not hand them over to the government by way of taxes.

In order for those with special needs to qualify for government assistance programs such as Social Security Income and Medicaid, they must meet health, income, and asset thresholds. In other words, at least on paper, potential recipients must be quite poor to receive benefits. As such, just like to initially receive benefits, if special needs person is already receiving these benefits they must maintain the established thresholds of assets and income, or lack thereof. So, an inheritance, receiving an accident or medical malpractice settlement, or merely amassing too much money in an account can kick these people off of much needed benefits due to violating the standards set down by managing government entities and departments. In the hopes of preventing this outcome proactively, many people turn to special needs trusts.

Special Needs Trusts: Revisited

A special needs trust allows a disabled person to, theoretically, shelter an unlimited amount of assets for their needs without being disqualified from government benefits.  As hinted to above, this is because the assets held in a special needs trust properly drafted by experienced Cleveland attorneys are not counted as individual resources for purposes of qualifying for benefits.  On paper, at least in the eyes of the government and taxman, the beneficiaries of special needs trusts meet their asset and income thresholds. As a consequence, those special needs persons lucky enough to have a special needs trusts have access to more money, which can be spent on comforts, necessities, housing, and much needed medical care. Though we in this country are lucky to have government assistance programs available to us, anyone with a loved one solely dependent on them will tell you it’s certainly not enough. A properly drafted special needs trust will provide extra care and life satisfaction for disabled loved ones regardless of whether supporting family members are around for many years or pass away suddenly.

Pooled Special Needs Trusts

As mentioned in previous blogs, there are many “flavors” of special needs trusts. One such type is a “pooled” special needs trust. The focal point with this trust is maximizing potential gains from money funded into the trust, minimizing administrative costs, and delegating trust management to experienced personnel. In a nutshell, pooled trusts are a method to provide benefits of a special needs trusts without having to do the administrative legwork yourself.

As a rule, pooled trusts are required to be run by non-profit companies or organizations. The company or organization running the pooled trust drafts a master trust agreement that dictates the terms of the trust and the relationship between the trust and all participants.

In almost all cases, the pooled trust is run by a professional administrator. After establishment of the trust, money is transferred into the pooled trust to fund a particular individual’s stake in the trust. This single source of funding is then pooled with other people’s money to make one big pot, hence the name pooled trust. This pot is then controlled and invested, usually by an investment manager, similar to the way a hedge fund or other investment group operates.

The major takeaway is the “pooled” aspect of this particular trust. In theory, because there are many sources of funding brought together and utilized tactically, a pooled trust can make more stable investments and provide additional management services that other types of special needs trust cannot. Again, this increased investment power and potential returns coupled with lowered administrative costs, because it is borne by a large group instead of the individual and also an individual trustee does not need to be vetted and appointed, is also with the added benefit of the special needs beneficiary still being able to receive government benefits.

Unique Issues with Pooled Special Needs Trusts

The most obvious potential issue with pooled trusts is control, or lack thereof for individual participants. With a pooled trust, the trust assets are managed by people selected by the non-profit organization and not by anyone associated with an individual participant. This, in turn, means unassociated individuals and trust terms dictate how investments proceed and when disbursements occur, pretty much in a take it or leave it style. Once money is surrendered and placed into the pooled trust, individual participants how no say over how it is spent or when it will be distributed.  Additionally, it is a little known and little advertised fact that after the special needs beneficiary passes, some or all of their particular trust account will be kept to help with continued funding for the pooled trust. As always read the fine print and be completely sure you know what you’re signing up for.

With pooled trusts you make undertake a pro’s vs. con’s analysis, lack of control versus potential gains that might be indispensable in providing of critical healthcare costs for those with special needs. Consult an experienced Cleveland estate planning attorney who is familiar with drafting and administrating special needs trusts in order to find out potential options and they best course to take. Further, before signing on the dotted line to participate in any pooled trust, have an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney review the master trust agreement. Often these documents are very massive and have many hidden terms that can have profound impacts on your and your loved ones with special needs.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Special Needs Trusts

The Three Flavors of Special Needs Trusts: #1 Third-Party Trusts

Estate Planning law firm Baron Law Cleveland offers the following part 1 of a three part series of explaining the difference trusts available for those who have loved ones with Special Needs.  Dan Baron of Baron Law can advise what is best trust for your situation as the trusts are as individual as your loved one.

According to recent statistics for the National Organization on Disability, nearly 1/5 of all Americans, almost 54 million, have a physical, sensory, or intellectual disability. Every one of those 54 million have parents, siblings, family members, and loved ones who want to ensure they are comfortable and provided for. As with many things with special needs persons, the solution for providing for them isn’t straightforward or simple. This is where special needs trusts often play a pivotal role in providing support and estate planning peace of mind.

Special Needs Trusts: A Primer

Special Needs Trusts, as their name suggests, are trusts. As trusts, they hold the common characteristics and features shared by all trusts. A trust, to put it simply, is a private agreement that allows a third party, a trustee, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. There are innumerable types of trusts, each with own its respective legal conventions and purposes. A critical aspect of trusts is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust creator’s taxable estate. Thus, when the owner of the trust creates the trust and properly funds it, the assets go from the owner’s taxable estate to the trust. Afterwards, when the owner dies, the assets are not in the owner’s estate and subject to probate.

The distinguishing aspect and purpose of special needs trusts, sometimes referred as supplemental needs trusts, is that resources placed within these trusts can be managed for the benefit of a person with special needs but still allow them to qualify for public benefits like supplemental security income and Medicaid. This allows grantors, those who create the trust, usually in this instance parents of someone with special needs, to provide much need stable and monetary support while still allowing often indispensable social assistance programs for their children, even long after the parents pass. Third-party trusts seek to supplement income from assistance programs not to replace it.

Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

In general, there are three types of special needs trusts: Third-party trusts, self-settled trusts, and pooled trusts. Of focus here is third-party special needs trusts. The name denotes the defining characteristic of this trust, that a third-party set up a trust and funded the trust. This is also its most critical aspect because the funds and/or assets in the trust never belonged to the beneficiary with special needs, the government is not entailed to reimbursement for Medicaid payments made to the beneficiary nor are these assets taken into account when calculatng either initial or continued eligibility for government assistance programs for the special needs person.

These trusts are usually set up as a part of a comprehensive estate plan that initially provides a place to house gifts given by family members during their life to someone with special needs and later to also house inheritance from these same family members when they pass. Third-party special needs trusts are often denoted as beneficiaries on life insurance polices or certain retirements accounts. Further, these trusts can also own real estate or investments in the name of the trust but for the ultimate benefit of the person with special needs.

Advantages of Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

A big advantage of third-party special needs trusts is that, while the grantor is living, funds in the trust usually generate income tax for the grantor, not for the special needs beneficiary. This shift in taxation is dependent on proper drafting which is why experienced counsel is always recommended with special needs trusts. This tax shift avoids the hassle and stress of having to file income tax returns for an otherwise non-taxable special needs beneficiary and also having to explain the income to the Social Security Administration or other interested government entity.

Additionally, because it a trust, ultimately what happens after the special needs beneficiary is controlled by the grantor, you. Thus, the grantor always retains control and upon the special needs beneficiary’s death, the assets in the trust pass according to the grantor’s express wishes, even longer after death, and usually to the grantor’s surviving family member or other charitable institutions. This means the special needs person is always provided for, and far-above those people solely dependent on government assistance, and the money, at the end, will continue to do good for either your family or the world at large.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Why Do I Need a Family Trust as Part of My Estate Planning?


At Baron law, we help you and your loved ones plan for the future. We provide legal advice in estate planning, real estate, business law, divorce, and landlord/ tenant law. One of the most important ways that we help you plan for the future is with family trusts.

What is a Family Trust?

A family trust is a contract or a set of instructions that you’re telling the world that you want to have followed after you’ve passed.

Many people think that a trust and a will are the same thing. However, a trust is different from a will. A will is also a set of instructions, but a will is a defined distribution, whereas with a trust you still have control even after you’ve passed many years down the road.

Why are Family Trusts Used?When are family trusts used?

Family trusts are used to avoid probate and help save on taxes. The family exemption these days is 10 million dollars or more.

Although, taxes are not as important as they were before it is important to keep in mind that that federal exemption changes all the time. Ten years ago, it was only 1 million. So, it may not be on the radar today, but it certainly could be down the road. This is important because you don’t know when your trust is going to go into effect.

The most common reason for having a family trust is for asset protection. Trusts are about having that shield for your children after you’re gone so that creditors, litigation, or a divorce, those things can’t attach interest to your estate after you’ve gone.

Why are Family Trusts Better Than a Will?

Probate:

The number one reason to have a trust is probate. According to the AARP, the average cost of probate is between 5 and 10 percent of the total value of an estate.

For example, if you have a five hundred thousand dollar estate, at a minimum, you’re going to spend twenty-five thousand dollars administering it through probate.

Privacy:

Having a trust is better than a will because of privacy; all of the information is public when going through probate. Someone could go to the courthouse and obtain the information, and now it is easier than ever to get this info because everything is online.

Cost-Efficiency:

Having a trust is more cost- effective than a will. The average time in probate is 18 months and the minimum time in probate is six months. So, you could administer your estate through a trust in a matter of months if you’d like more to carry it on for the legacy and lifetime of your family to ensure that there is asset protection.

Who Should be Implementing a Family Trust Into Their Estate Plan?

Everyone should consider a family trust. However, there are certain criteria for people who we strongly suggest having a family trust.

  • People who have children with spending problems.
  • People who have children who are special needs.
  • People who have children who have any risk of divorce.

How Soon Should I Start to Plan for My Estate?

As soon as possible. The bottom line is that no one knows when they will pass, and it is better to have these safeguards in place to protect your assets and your family, especially if you have children.

If you have not considered a will or a trust or you have any questions about a family trust, contact us at Baron Law today. You can go to our website for a free consultation so you can start planning for the future for yourself and your loved ones.

Special Needs Trusts

Unique Needs, Unique Solution: Supplemental Services Trusts

As with most persons with special needs and disabilities, the name of the game is to pay it forward. Unplanned and unthought out self-sacrifice, however, are rarely the proper ways to go about anything. Unfortunately, those families with loved ones with particularly debilitating diseases or affiliations are often solely focused on the here and now in terms of providing care. When asked, was about in 10 years? Or what about when you pass or are too old or sick yourself to provide care, what then? Regularly, these questions, though critically important, are pushed aside because to answer them would require tough choices to be made. Often these families fall back on pithy and often callous responses.  Responses such as, “everything will be fine as long as my child dies before I do” or “my other, more typical children will shoulder the burden and take care of their special needs sibling.”

Special Needs Trusts in a Nutshell

Special Needs Trusts are private agreements that allows a third party, a trustee, usually the family, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries, the special needs person. There are many types of trusts, each with own its unique legal conventions and uses. The critical aspect of trusts in this circumstance is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust beneficiary’s taxable estate. Thus, the resources placed within these trusts can be managed for the benefit of a person with special needs but still allow them to qualify for public benefits like supplemental security income, Medicaid, and other local and state government benefits. This allows grantors, those who create the trust, to provide much need stable and monetary support while still allowing often indispensable social assistance programs for their children, even long after the parents pass. Critically, these trusts seek to supplement income from assistance programs not to replace it, which is important in the eyes of the government because if a family, and by extension a special needs person, can provide for themselves than they don’t need assistance programs.  This theory is echoed in the needs and health-based requirements of many, if not all, assistance programs. The rules and requirements for local, state, and federal government assistance programs can be confusing, contract a local Cleveland area estate planning attorney today to make sure you’re informed enough to make the right choices.

Supplemental Services Trusts

Per O.R.C. § 5122-22-01(D), trusts for supplemental services, denotes the primary requirements of these trusts which allow special needs persons to benefit from them while also receiving government benefits:

“(D) Supplemental services. (1) Supplemental services are expenditures, items or services which meet the following criteria:

(a) The services are in addition to services an individual with a disability is eligible to receive under programs authorized by federal or state law or regulations, and the services do not supplant services which would otherwise be available without the existence of the trust;

(b) The services are in addition to basic necessities for such items as essential food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care, and the services are in addition to other items provided pursuant to an ascertainable standard; and

(c) The services are paid for with funds distributed pursuant to a trust which meets the requirements of section 5815.28 of the Revised Code or with funds distributed from the supplemental services fund created in section 5119.51 of the Revised Code, and the services would not be available without payment from the trust or fund.

The two main takeaways from this passage is that 1) the trust services do not replace government benefits and 2) a supplemental services trusts is the only way a special needs person would get these additional benefits.

In nutshell, a supplemental services trust is for individuals who are eligible to be served by the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation, a county board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities, the Ohio Department of Health, or a board of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services. With this trust, trust beneficiaries must be vetted and approved by the State Department of Disabilities or the County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The trust estate, i.e. stuff placed in trust, as of 2015, cannot exceed $242,00o.  Further, Ohio law is strict that the trust assets are used only for supplemental services, those services not provided by government assistance programs. Additionally, another hardpoint with these trusts is that upon the death of the beneficiary, a portion of the remaining assets, which must be at least 50 percent of the remaining balance, must be returned to the state of Ohio to be used for the benefits of others who do not have such a trust. Thus, pay it forward, at least in this circumstance, is written in the rock of Ohio law.

So why use a Supplemental Services Trust?

Again, the best way to demonstrate the value of these trusts is to go into the Ohio code. Per Per O.R.C. § 5122-22-01 (D)(2):

Supplemental services…include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Reimbursement for attendance at or participation in recreational or cultural events;

(b) Travel and vacations;

(c) Participation in hobbies, sports or other activities;

(d) Items beyond necessary food and clothing (e.g., funds for dining out occasionally, for special foods periodically delivered, or for an article of clothing such as a coat which is extra but which is desirable because it is newer, more stylish, etc.);

(e) Cosmetic, extraordinary, experimental or elective medical or dental care, if not available through other third party sources;

(f) Visiting friends, companionship;

(g) Exercise equipment, or special medical equipment if not available through other third party sources;

(h) The cost differential between a shared room and a private room;

(i) Equipment such as telephones, cable television, televisions, radios and other sound equipment, and cameras for private use by the individual;

(j) Membership in clubs such as book clubs, health clubs, record clubs;

(k) Subscriptions to magazines and newspapers;

(l) Small, irregular amounts of personal spending money, including reasonable funds for the occasional purchase of gifts for family and friends, or for donations to charities or churches;

(m) Advocacy;

(n) Services of a representative payee or conservator if not available through other third party sources;

(o) Guardianship or other protective service listed in paragraph (C)(9) of this rule;

(p) Someone other than mental health community support staff members to visit the individual periodically and monitor the services he receives;

(q) Intervention or respite when the person is in crisis if not available through other third party sources;

(r) Vocational rehabilitation or habilitation, if not available through other third party sources;

(s) Reimbursement for attendance at or participation in meetings, conferences, seminars or training sessions;

(t) Reimbursement for the time and expense for a companion or attendant necessary to enable the individual to access or receive supplemental services including, but not limited to, travel and vacations and attendance at meetings, conferences, seminars, or training sessions;

(u) Items which medicaid and other governmental programs do not cover or have denied payment or reimbursement for, even if those items include basic necessities such as physical or mental health care or enhanced versions of basic care or equipment (e.g., wheelchair, communication devices), and items which are not included for payment by the per diem of the facility in which the beneficiary lives; and

(v) Other expenditures used to provide dignity, purpose, optimism and joy to the beneficiary of a supplemental services trust.

From the extensive list of available uses for trust assets for special needs persons, it is no surprise that those persons with those trusts live and much more comfortable and fulfilling life than those without. Additionally, these trusts shoulder the burden for parents and sibling for providing much need support and care while also acting as a tool for benefit preservation. There are many options available for those family members with special needs persons, talk to an experienced Ohio area estate planning attorney to find out the best options for your family.

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Estate Planning Attorney

What Is The Difference Between A Living And Testamentary Trust?

Your estate plan consists of many documents and covers a lot of bases. From protecting assets from creditors and litigants to avoiding probate, a comprehensive estate plan protects you while you’re living and provides for loved ones after death. Because estate plans are, by design, comprehensive, a lot of legal jargon is thrown around and often it’s difficult to keep track of all the nuance and detail. Durable powers of attorney, QTIP elections, unlimited martial deduction, and all the many names of the many different types of trusts, to name a few.  

That said, one of the most common questions posed during an initial estate planning consultation is, what is the difference between a living and a testamentary trust? Years ago testamentary trusts were all the rage, a lot of people have them but don’t know how they work or if they are even providing any benefits to the ultimate goals of estate planning. Since trusts represent one of the most utilitarian estate planning tools, in that they have the ability to do many useful and advantageous things in regards to estate planning, understanding the difference between living and testamentary trusts is critical to providing context to any advice given by Ohio estate planning attorneys.  

  • What is trust? 

As always, we must start with the basics, what is a trust? A trust, to put it simply, is a private agreement that allows a third party, a trustee, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. There are innumerable types of trusts, each with own its respective legal conventions and purposes. A critical aspect of trusts is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust creator’s taxable estate. Thus, when the owner of the trust creates the trust and properly funds it, the assets go from the owner’s taxable estate to the trust. Afterwards, when the owner dies, the assets are not in the owner’s estate and subject to probate. 

  • What is a living trust? 

A living trust, also called an inter-vivos trust, is simply a trust created when you are alive. They can be either revocable and irrevocable and when someone is talking about a trust, usually it’s a living trust. Living is the umbrella term for a trust and is usually paired with other descriptive terms such as family, asset protection, or revocable or irrevocable to describe the primary purpose of the trust and what it is designed to do. Living trusts must have the same basic composition as other normal trusts, a grantor, trustee, and beneficiary.   

  • What is a testamentary trust? 

A testamentary trust is created in your last will and testament, specifically, it directs your executor of the estate to create it.  Thus, unlike a living trust, a testamentary trust will not take effect until you die.  The terms of the trust are amendable and revocable, in that they can be changed at any time, which makes sense because it doesn’t come into being until after death.  

One of the major distinguishing features of a testamentary trust is the involvement of the local probate court. From the time of the settlor’s death until the expiration of the testamentary trust, the probate court checks up on the trust to make sure it is being managed properly. Court involvement is usually sought in the context of testamentary trusts because these trusts are usually created for beneficiaries who, for some reason, are unable to received and manage trust funds appropriately.  

  • When would you use one over the other?  

At the end of the day, just like every other estate planning decision, it is all circumstantial and highly depend on personal situation and estate planning goals. (Which is why estate planning attorneys ask so many questions when you first meet them.) For the sake of some definitive answer, however, there are some tried and true situations when one is preferable over the other.  

If you are interested in avoiding probate, avoiding excessive court oversight, keeping your estate private, and saving your estate money by simplifying property conveyances and avoiding potential will contests, then a living will is likely a good choice. As mentioned before, since living trusts can be created to meet almost any goal or concern of estate planning, the major deciding factors of use is initial cost and ultimate utility of a trust, i.e. there is no point buying a trust if you have nothing to fund it with.   

Testamentary trusts, on the other hand, are created for young children who may be at risk of receiving improper inheritances or trust distributions, family members with disabilities, or other who may get large amounts of money or assets that enter into the estate upon a testator’s death. Further, these trusts are often highly recommended for parents who are at risk of dying at the same time. 

A testamentary trust can set parameters on your estate and how it will be distributed and/or managed after you pass on.  For example, you might include terms that allow for discretionary distributions of $1,000 a month to be given to your children until the age of 21 in the event both parents pass. This ensure that, even if tragedy strikes, the kids will, at least in some way, be supported by their parents, whether they’re gone or not.  At the end of the day, testamentary trusts, like all trusts, allows estate control even after death. Testamentary trusts are unique, however, in that the allow for greater oversight, via the courts, in what’s going on inside the trust. This can be a double-edged sword, however, in that, depending on how long the court needs to be involved, legal fees and administrative costs could add up making this trust structure unattractive if the trust is designed to last a long time.  

Again, dependent on the circumstances, such as estate planning goals, family structure, available estate assets, either or both types of trusts may be advantageous to use. A Cleveland estate planning attorney is in the best position to judge what is most appropriate for a given situation.

 

Daniel A Baron Estate Planning lawyer

What Is A Revocable Trust?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following information as to whether or not you should have a Revocable Trust as part of your comprehensive estate planning.

When you decide it is time to do your estate planning, one decision to make is: Do I Need A Trust? If the answer is yes, then the next question is whether or not a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust is the right tool to use in your Comprehensive Estate Planning.  Although both of these are created to avoid probate, there are differences between the two.

A Revocable Trust means you can change things at any time such as;

  • Beneficiaries
  • Add items of value to the trust or remove items from the trust and so on.
  • Changing Trustees
  • Change what funds the trust
  • Eliminate the trust
  • Change amounts to be funded
  • Add Trustees

With a Revocable Trust – the Grantor or Settlor creates the trust AND can also act as the Trustee AND can be named as the beneficiary.

An Irrevocable Trust means no changes can be made (with a few exceptions) once the trust is created.

An Irrevocable Trust has three parties to the Trust; the Grantor or Settlor, the Trustee(s), and the beneficiary or beneficiaries.

  1. The Grantor or Settlor is the person who funds or establishes the Trust
  2. The Trustee is the person who oversees the trust, and
  3. The beneficiary reaps the rewards of the income generated by the investments of the trust. Although the Grantor / Settlor and the beneficiary can be the same, they cannot act as the Trustee

With a Revocable Trust you must remember if you are looking to keep investments, bank accounts, property, and any other such asset as part of the trust, the accounts must be set up in the trusts name and property must be titled to the trust.  Failure to do this while you are still living means that the assets still in your personal name at the time of your death will be subject to probate and a larger amount of estate taxes.

If you are having difficulty determining whether your situation calls for a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust, seek the advice of an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer. For more information on reviewing your goals for your Comprehensive Estate Planning, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.

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Trust Administration Attorney

Common Reasons Why Family Trusts Are Important

Baron Law LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, offers information for you to reflect upon while you are setting out looking for an estate planning attorney to help protect as much of your assets as you can. For more comprehensive information contact Baron Law Cleveland to draft your comprehensive estate plan to endeavor to keep more of your assets for your heirs and not hand them over to the government by way of taxes.

Trusts are lauded as an almost indispensable component of estate planning. This largely stems from the ability to outright negate the tax burden upon an estate through the use of martial exemptions, the unified tax credit, and deductions. Nuanced trust use and understanding of the internal revenue code prevents an estate, of which a family has spent a lifetime of labor on, from being consumed by taxes, such as the generation-skipping tax, federal estate tax, and gift tax.

Apart from the overt tax benefits, trusts also afford grantors and beneficiaries a host of secondary benefits. From ensuring comfortable living during senior years and Medicaid eligibility to confirming trust asset longevity and legitimacy, a well drafted, implemented, and managed trust can provide decades of support and peace of mind for surviving friends and family. The following are four not widely-known benefits of using a trust. Nowadays trusts are a ubiquitous but misunderstood estate planning tool. As such, knowing all the ways trusts can work for you helps in deciding if you want to incorporate one into your estate plan.

Primacy of Trusts over UTMA Custodial Accounts (Conveyances to Minors)

Apart from financial aid and personal savings, a common way to help pay for college tuition and associated expenses is a UTMA custodial account. As with any large expense, a little foresight and planning can make a big difference. The Uniform Transfer to Minors Act, i.e. the UTMA, is a potentially advantageous vehicle for the creation of a college savings account.

In Ohio, children under 18 can’t receive direct inheritance. As such, UTMA accounts are available to control and protect assets for minors until they reach they reach the chosen age of termination, between 18 and 25. These accounts are privileged to non-taxed and partially taxed earnings amounts, up to a limited amount, and are simple to create. Though expedient to make, using trusts to house assets for college often is more preferable in particular circumstances.

For a UTMA account, at the age of termination, the beneficiary gets control of the assets. This may pose an untenable risk of frivolous spending or mismanagement. Further, the age of termination is statutorily prescribed, meaning if a grantor desires continued oversight or staggered distribution, such is unavailable. Trusts on the other hand are free to impose continued control and measured distribution thus ensuring asset longevity and more nuanced settlor control. Furthermore, UTMA accounts count as an asset for financial aid eligibility which could reduce available financial assistance or foreclose it entirely. Also, the preferential tax treatment of UTMA accounts are only really effective for smaller gifts. As such, for larger gifts, the tax benefits of using UTMA transfer is negated. Thus, in many circumstances and for many people trusts are preferable for minor conveyances. Contact a local estate planning attorney to find out if a UTMA account or personalized trust plan is right for you.

Professional Rules Mandating Due Diligence

Trust formation is a measured and complex process often undertaken with attorney guidance. As such, an attorney’s ethical obligations of due diligence and competent representation control during trust creation and management.

Because attorneys are ethically bound to do a good job, a secondary benefit of using a trust is the unsung legwork attorneys put in to support a trust and fulfill their duties. For example, confirming a complete chain of title or the existence of valid deeds and signatures. Often long-term or complex assets are rife with unrecognized errors or hibernating claims of ownership. A watchful and dutiful attorney will disarm any surprises before assets are housed within a trust, surprises which would otherwise go unnoticed in the absence of a trust and the supporting attorney. Again, hiring an experienced Cleveland estate planning attorney can save you and your beneficiaries a lot of time and stress down the line.

Deliberate Election of Trustee Experts

A critical component of trust formation is the selection of a trustee. The trustee is responsible for managing trust assets and making distribution per the grantor’s instructions. The importance of this position should not be understated.

Often, however, trust assets are investment accounts, land, or securities. Each asset type possesses its own laws and requisite knowledge to manage effectively. Since trusts are estate planning tools crafted over months, attorneys regularly counsel the appointment of trustees with expertise reflective to trust assets, not just a close family member with little understanding regarding the management of trust assets. Willingness of a grantor to use a trust, with the associated time and resource costs, means a grantor will go the extra mile to pick the best trustee for the job. The right person in the right place can make all the difference.

Privacy
It is a little-known fact that trusts also, by their very nature, protect the privacy of the grantor and the assets placed within the trust. When a person dies with a will, the will goes through probate. Because probate files are publicly accessible court documents, anyone can read the will. Thus bequests, beneficiaries, creditor claims, and any other personal information is obtainable by anyone, for any reason. Trusts, on the other hand, are confidential. Since trusts are private agreements, beneficiaries, trust assets, and the trust estate structure are protected from those not meant to know.

Any internet search about trusts will return volumes of results concerning all the multitudes of trusts out there. From self-needs trust, to tax-shelter trusts, to family trusts, trusts reflect the needs and goals of their creators. Trusts, however, are not a hot or common topic of conversation. As such, not many know, unless they sit down with their Ohio estate planning attorney, of all the ways trusts can mitigate, eliminate, or avoid personal or family problems. In an effort to inform people regarding trusts, and if they are something a particular person should look into, go to www.doineedatrust.com and take a 1-minute quiz. The only thing you’ve got to lose is 1-minute, but you could be saving yourself thousands over your lifetime.

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

About the author: Mike E. Benjamin, Esq.

Mike is a contracted attorney at Baron Law LLC who specializes in civil litigation, estate planning, and probate law. He is a member of the Westshore Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of Ohio. He can be reached at mike@baronlawcleveland.com.

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.