Daniel A Baron - Estate Planning Lawyer

What Is An Irrevocable Trust?

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

An Irrevocable Trust, by design cannot be modified in any fashion or terminated without the express written consent of the beneficiary or beneficiaries. Once the trust is created it stands AS IS and cannot be changed at all, notwithstanding a few exceptions.

  • Perhaps a beneficiary needs to be changed
  • Perhaps a financial institution may need clarification of a Trustees Identity
  • The beneficiary may need to terminate the trust early due to an immediate need for a large expense

Why would there exist a need for an Irrevocable Trust?

  • It protects your property held in Trust against creditors
  • It minimizes your estate tax liability
  • If you are looking to qualify for government assistance programs, i.e., Medicaid or Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits

There are three parties to a Trust:

First Party: The “Grantor” or “Settlor” who is the person or persons who establishes the trust. Keep in mind that when the Irrevocable Trust is established the “grantor” or “settlor” relinquishes all control of the assets held within the trust.

Second Party: The Trustee who are appointed by the “Grantor” or “Settlor” whose responsibilities include overseeing the assets, investments, etc., and to pay any expenses which benefits to beneficiary

Third Party:   The Beneficiary whose job it is, is to sit back relax and benefit from the income generated by the investments within the trust.

Let’s start the conversation to see if an Irrevocable Trust is the right tax planning strategy for you as part of your Comprehensive Estate Planning. For more information on reviewing your goals for your Comprehensive Estate Planning, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

 

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.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Baron Law Estate Planning Lawyer - Cleveland, Ohio

How Can I Amend An Existing Will?

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, Ohio, offers the following information on what documents are necessary for you to provide your attorney when sitting down to establish your comprehensive estate plan.

 

One of the primary goals of drafting a will is to encapsulate the entirety of a life’s material assets and leave instructions for the dispensation of those assets after death. The other goal is to leave some legacy, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise, to friends and family by communicating final wishes so at least some minor part of ourselves persists, at least for a little bit, after we’re gone. Implicit in the pursuant of these goals is the assumption that the circumstances and realities of the present will mirror those of the future. That, however, is never the case. Time passes, the world changes, and we change with it.

More often than not, the initial draft of a will is not definitive. Family dynamics shift, executors and beneficiaries pass away, people move, assets are conveyed, trusts are established to avoid probate and preserve assets, and the law changes. As such, wills often need to be updated or outright rewritten. Wills, however, are legal documents. As such, you can’t just edit a will with red pen and call it a day. There are particular ways to change a will, each with its own rules and procedures. As always, if your will needs changing, or if you don’t have a will at all, contact an Ohio estate attorney. No one wants to leave their family a confusing or invalid will to deal with during the mourning process.

Codicil

An amendment to a will is called a codicil. Codicils are the primary way to amend a will in Ohio and are meant to amend, alter, or confirm a previously existing will. A codicil doesn’t override a will but becomes a new part of the document. Codicils must be executed with the same formalities as a will. That is, it must be in writing, signed by the person drafting it, and witnessed by two disinterested parties who either saw the person sign or heard them acknowledge their signature. Further, the testator, the person making the will or in this instance the codicil, must possess sufficient legal capacity. That is, be 18 years of age, of sound mind and memory, and not under undue threat or influence.

Codicils are largely holdovers from the past before the existence of Microsoft Word and typewriters. Back then, wills were long, handwritten, and required multiple parties to be physically present during execution. As such, a simple amendment, rather than total rewriting, saved time and expense. Nowadays, though, since wills can be quickly amended and printed, drafting a new will is preferable.

Codicils do possess some persisting utility. In a medical crisis or where a person is on an extreme fixed income, use of a codicil may be viable. Codicils, however, are potentially problematic. Codicils can be executed improperly, establish an ademption, i.e. bequeathing property no longer owned or in existence, mistakenly revoke otherwise valid will provisions, or create ambiguity during probate. Further, any codicils must accompany the associated will. So, the misplacement or destruction of a valid codicil is a major concern when probating a will. Drafting a new will avoids these problems. Contact a Cleveland estate planning attorney to see what option is preferable for your particular circumstances. At minimum, an attorney can guarantee your family can actually find a will, and all the accompanying codicils, when the time comes.

Revocation

The other method of changing a will in Ohio is revocation, and subsequent redrafting. A will is revoked primarily the following ways:

1) a testator, with the intent to revoke, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying a will.

2) an agent of testator, within the presence of testator or with testator’s written direction, doing the same.

3) by another written will or codicil, signed, attested, and subscribed according to the laws of Ohio.

Further, a revocation must have the same state of mind as with will creation, i.e. sound mind and body with no undue influence.

These methods of revocation are available if a will hasn’t been filed with a probate court. In the event that a will was filed, one must file a petition with the relevant probate court, using the standardized forms provided, and ask that the will be revoked. If the court determines that the revocation is valid, it will recognize the revocation and note it in public record.

Revoking a will is often simpler than drafting codicils. Every time concurrent estate documents exist and need to be read together, considerations with conflicting and superseding terms, ademptions, and ambiguity must be addressed. Furthermore, a probate court might reject a codicil which will likely throw an entire estate plan in disarray and balloon probate costs. Such costs are borne by the estate and might outright consume any money slotted to go to surviving friends and family. An Ohio estate planning attorney is in the best position to advise on the sufficiency of an existing will and whether revocation and redrafting is justifiable in your current circumstances.

 

Tangible Personal Property Memoranda

Though not available in Ohio, another potential method to amend a will is with a tangible personal property memorandum, “TTPM.” Most people use simple language to bequest remaining personal property to surviving friends and family. Usually by either leaving everything to the surviving spouse or to children in proportional shares. Facially, this seems like a fair and simple way to distribute an estate. In application, though, issues often arise. Certain children may feel snubbed or offended by a particular asset distribution or manner of distribution, as often is the case when one adult child served as a caregiver for ailing parents but received the same proportional estate share that less selfless children received. Further, often estate assets cannot be spilt equally. For example, splitting a timeshare in Aspen between three children and six grandchildren. Addressing and preventing these problems is where a personal property memo comes in.

As previously mentioned, this method of will amendment is not recognized as valid by Ohio courts and will be disregarded. This places an even greater emphasis on forethought when creating an estate plan and use of clear and concise language for bequests. An experienced Ohio estate attorney will know the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

A few hours of planning can save thousands of dollars down the line and avoid embarrassing family infighting over who gets what. Life is perpetual change and estate planning attorneys try valiantly to predict the future and address any and every circumstance. Try as they may, however, the only thing one can expect is the unexpected. Therefore, it is always wise to be flexible and not to become entrenched in now old and defunct legal documents. Even if an estate plan covers 95% of what you need, the 5% unaddressed can easily cripple any well laid plan and lead to a lifetime of savings and earnings being extinguished by taxes, creditors, or penalties.

For more information, you can contact Mike Benjamin of Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723. Baron Law LLC is a Cleveland, Ohio area law firm focusing on estate planning and elder law. Mike can also be reached at mike@baronlawcleveland.com.

 

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.
“He who is always his own counselor will often have a fool for his client.” Old English Proverb est. circa

 

Daniel A Baron - Baron Law Cleveland

Dying Without A Will – A Mess for Your Family To Clean-up

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.

No one likes it think about death, and even less people actively prepare for its inevitable occurrence. With everything that makes up life, job, family, recreation, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what we need to do or want to do, let alone do what we despise. Thinking about death and how life will continue on regardless of whether we are here or not isn’t a fun concept people like to dwell on. Estate planning, or lack thereof, has tremendous consequences for surviving friends and family. A proper estate plan can mean the kids get to go college and the surviving spouse gets to stay in the house and doesn’t have to get a second job. No estate plan means the martial home gets sold to pay off debts and necessities or the surviving kids blow through an investment portfolio shrewdly managed for 25 years in 6 months. A local Cleveland estate planning attorney can create a customized estate plan with supporting documents to ensure that your friends and family are in the best position when your gone and avoid familial infighting and asset waste.  

Apart from the absolute chaos and/or squandering of a lifetime of assets which may result from a lack of estate planning, what are the practical consequences of not having a will?  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. Ohio intestacy laws may be avoided altogether with proper estate planning. It is important, however, to be familiar with these laws because they may apply for a variety of reasons in a variety of situations. Sometimes intestacy laws will control even if a valid will is subject to probate administration. Conversely, sometimes Ohio intestacy laws may not apply even if a decedent died intestate. As such, since the controlling law for dying without a will can be flexible, an estate planning and/or probate lawyer is highly recommended.  

One example where intestacy laws are inapplicable even if decedent died without a valid will is where the estate assets in question would not have been part of the decedent’s probate estate if the decedent had a will. An example of this situation is property that is owned jointly with right of survivorship. This type of ownership will pass to the surviving joint owner by operation of law irrespective to the terms of the decedent’s will or intestacy statutes. The same is true for bank accounts or other assets with valid payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) designations. Property that the decedent transferred to a trust during life will not typically become part of the decedent’s probate or intestate estate.   

The most common situation where intestate law applies is when a will is declared invalid by a probate court because it was not executed in accordance with the requirements under Ohio law. The same holds true if a will is set aside for other reasons, such as fraud in the execution. Further, even if a decedent’s will is found valid and is not set aside, there can be many circumstances where intestacy laws still apply. One such circumstance is that a will fails to dispose of all of the decedent’s property because it does not have a residuary clause. This outsight is becoming more common with the use of services like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom. Ensuring that estate planning documents are properly executed, drafted, and filed is a major reason why estate planning attorneys are employed and retained. Doing it yourself may be cheaper in the short-term, but when it counts the most, self-drafted estate document all too often fail to make the grade.  

So, apart from not knowing whether intestacy laws will apply or not, what’s the big deal dying intestate?  

In a nutshell, dying intestate can have serious consequences for surviving friends and family and, most importantly, can affect the amount of  estate money and assets available, who those assets go to, and when those assets are distributed. First off, dying intestate means a decedent has very little, if any, direct control over who gets what and when. That is decided per the laws of intestacy. So, if you have two children, one is rich and doesn’t need any more money and the other has addiction issues and can’t be trusted, but you have a niece who just got accepted to Harvard but can’t afford it, too bad, you can’t help out your niece if you die intestate. Further, dying intestate means the court has to administrate the estate, which takse a lot longer than direct bequests in a will. Instead of potentially almost instantaneous transfer of money and assets, you likely have to wait at least six months to distribute estate assets. During this time, surviving friends and family are angry they haven’t gotten their share, the legal fees are running for the attorney, the fees are running for the estate administrator, and you’re paying taxes and upkeep on any estate assets that require such.  

Furthermore, subjecting an estate to intestate administration means creditors and litigants have almost free reign to bring claims against intestate assets. If an estate is properly planned and organized, there are ways to protect most if not all of an estate’s assets from these outside threats. As previously mentioned before, an intestate estate requires an administrator. This person is appointed by the probate court, it may be a family member, it may not be. Hopefully, they will be competent, responsible, and honest, but if an estate fiduciary isn’t proactively appointed, who know who’ll be appointed. Ohio law subjects estate fiduciaries to steep penalties for incompetence and misconduct, there is a reason for this. History is rife with examples of fiduciaries wasting or absconding with estate assets. After you’ve spent a lifetime working, saving, and building, why put it all in the hands of a strange or irresponsible or inexperienced family member. This is why Ohio estate attorneys exist, to help you protect a lifetime of labor and give to the people you love.  

Choosing to die intestate certainly is one way to do it but it is hardly the best way. Spending a little time to sit down with a probate attorney or estate planner will ensure that you’re proactively thinking about the future and putting your friends and family in the best possible situations and avoiding needless stress, confusion, and time waste. A last will and testament is the “core” of any estate plan. If you don’t have anything else, you must have a will. Simply put, its foolish not to even take this basic step.  

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

 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.

 

Probate Lawyer Baron Law LLC

Probate – What Is It?

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning law firm, 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 […]

Baron Law Cleveland Ohio

You Have Been Appointed Executor, What Do You Do?

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, Ohio, offers the following information on what your duties are as an executor of an estate.  Contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law to answer all your questions on what your duties are and to help guide you through the events that will be taking place and how to navigate through them.

An executor appointment is bittersweet. It is heartwarming that your recently deceased friend or loved one had faith enough in your abilities to trust you with the administration of their estate, however, fulfilling the duties of an executor is no simple matter. For the next six months, at minimum, you “stand in the shoes” of the dearly departed. You ensure their debts are paid, their affairs are closed in orderly fashion, and their final wishes are communicated to and followed by grieving friends, family, and business associates.  

Most individuals have little prior experience with executorships. Often people agree many years before the faithful day to be an executor and do little preparation or research for when the time arrives. Executor appointments are serious matters with serious consequences. A failure to perform the duties of an executor satisfactorily can result in estate assets being squandered, the infliction of additional stress and trauma upon grieving survivors, and, in extreme cases of misconduct or neglect, personal liability for the executor. Thankfully, executors have been a common reality in estate law for many centuries. As such, what you need to do, how to do it, and when you need to do it are all spelled out in the laws of Ohio. Naturally, the best adviser to seek out if one is appointed an executor is an Ohio estate planning attorney. A Cleveland estate attorney can walk you through the do’s and don’ts and ensure filings are proper in form and timely in submission.  

  1. Open the Estate

As an executor, the first thing you need to do is to open the estate. There is a myriad of probate proceedings available to open an estate, each with its own filing requirements and hurdles. Some may even be able to avoid probate all together, saving time and stress for an executor. Again, an estate attorney is in the best position to advise the best way to probate an estate, if there is a need at all.   

II.Inventory the Estate  

Once an estate has been opened, an inventory of the probate assets is required to be filed with the probate court within 3 months of the executor’s appointment. Only probate assets are inventoried. Non-probate assets pass to beneficiaries or owners outside of the will and, as such, are not considered a part of a decedent’s estate. Your estate attorney will know which estate assets are subject to probate. Practical tip, it is good practice for those with an estate plan to keep a comprehensive accounting of all assets in a centralized location to assist an executor in locating assets and keeping track of values and amounts of assets. Additionally, telling your executor that this accounting exists is just as important as doing it all. All too often executors are completely in the dark regarding the composition of an estate and the location of critical documents.     

To take the actual inventory of decedent’s estate, you will use the series “6” standardized forms from the Ohio Supreme Court website in conjunction with the relevant local probate court forms. There are 88 probate courts in Ohio, each with its own way of doing business, as such, each probate court has particular forms they prefer. Initially, use the local forms, when in doubt, the Ohio Supreme Court forms are always acceptable.  

An inventory itself is a detailed description of all probate estate assets along with their values. Detailed information regarding the assets, such as account numbers, serial numbers, stock certificate numbers, and book, plat, and parcel numbers for real estate are denoted in the inventory. The inventory, at the most basic level, consists of two forms: 1) the Inventory and Appraisal form and 2) the Schedule of Assets form. The Schedule of Assets contains the detailed information regarding the estate. Basically, a list of asset identifiers and information, i.e. the who, what, and where of assets. The Inventory and Appraisal form is the summary of the probate asset information that is detailed on the Schedule of Assets form. It recaps the values of the tangible and intangible personal property and real estate owned by the estate. During the drafting of these documents, appraisals and valuations of assets take place. Naturally, there are particularized rules and procedures for such, but that is a discussion for a later date.  

After all the assets are located and relevant investigations completed, the inventory is submitted to the court and a hearing date is set. Per the laws of Ohio, a probate court is required to set all inventories for hearing not less than 10 days and not more than 30 days after filing of the inventory. During this time notice is required to be sent to all interested parties of the estate, e.g. next of kin, devisees, legatees, and creditors of the estate. An inventory hearing cannot be undertaken unless receipt of formal notice for all interested parties is confirmed or waivers for those interested parties are signed and filed with the court. The notices themselves are standardized forms assessable via any probate court website.  

While waiting for the notice period to expire and for the hearing date to arrive, interested parties can file exceptions to the inventory. Exceptions, generally, are claims to particular estate assets and whether they have been properly included or excluded from an inventory. The important thing is filing of an exception to an inventory triggers an inventory exception hearing which, in turn, continues the inventory hearing. Thus, an inventory cannot be approved until the exceptions are addressed and the probate process stalls.   

If there are no exceptions filed, or the exceptions have been resolved, and after the notice period has been observed, the court will conduct an inventory hearing and enter an Entry Approving Inventory. This Entry, in essence, states going forward, the approved inventory will be the presumptive valuation and appraisal of estate assets. Thus, distributions of estate assets according to the laws of Ohio or the last will and testament of decedent can begin.  

At this point in the process, a significant part of the legwork for an executor is finished. The major hurdles remaining deal with will-contests, asset distribution, and closing of the estate. An upcoming article will flesh out the remainder of the duties and obligations of executors going forward past the inventory hearing and the probate court’s Entry Approving Inventory. If you’ve been appointed an as executor and have questions regarding what you need to do and when you need to do it, contact an Ohio estate planning attorney. Spending a little time now can save you a lot of time later.   

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

 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.   

 

 

Estate Planning Lawyer Baron Law Cleveland

Executor’s Duties – When Should Debts Be Paid?

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning law firm, Baron Law LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, offers the following information on what your duties are as an executor of an estates and  when you need to pay all debts of the estate.   Contact Baron Law Cleveland to answer all your questions on what your duties are and to help guide your through […]

Baron Law Cleveland Attorney

I’ve Been Named As The Executor In A Will, Now What?

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning law firm, Baron Law LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, offers the following information on what your duties are as an executor of an estate.  Contact Baron Law Cleveland to answer all your questions on what your duties are and to help guide your through the  upcoming events which are about to occur and how to handle any issues which may arise.

Unfortunately, a close friend or family member has passed and in their will you were appointed as executor of their estate. At the time the will was drafted maybe you gave little or a lot of thought into what being named executor actually entails. Often, it’s the former, most people have little experience administrating an estate and little reason to overthink being named an executor. So, when the time comes to handle the responsibilities of an executor, it can be a confusing and overwhelming process.

An appointment to executor is a serious affair, but an understanding of the process and expectations of an executor can limit the stress of an already stressful situation. Since most people have little experience with wills, estates, or probate, everyone finds themselves asking the same questions when they remember they’re an executor. Note, this article is only a minor overview and contacting a Cleveland estate planning attorney in event of death or a potential or actual appointment as executor is always recommended. An experienced Ohio estate planning attorney can give you personalized guidance and recommendations to take as much of the burden off you as possible.

 

What is an executor?

Bluntly, an executor is the person, or persons, named in a will to administrate the estate after death. The executor is the individual responsible for seeing that the final wishes of the decedent, as denoted in the will, are carried out. The appointment of an executor is a logical, and necessary, consequence for the existence of last will and testaments. At the end of the day, wills are only pieces of paper. So, without someone loyal, trustworthy, and actually willing to carry out the terms of a will, a will would be a paper tiger and estate assets wouldn’t be distributed nor posthumous debts and obligations handled. So, if you’ve been named as an executor, congratulations, you’re likely the most responsible and well-adjusted of the decedent’s friends and family.

 

How is an executor appointed?

Executors are formally appointed as such by explicit provision in a last will and testament. Hopefully, the will holder informs the named individual of their selection of executor, but this is not a strict requirement, just courtesy and commonsense.

Just being named as executor in a will, however, is not sufficient to confer the job. When the will is probated, the following statutory requirements are observed by the court when selecting an executor:

  1. The named individual must be competent to serve as executor.
  2. The named individual must be at least 18 years old
  3. The named individual must be bonded

Implicit within the bond requirement is that the named executor has good credit and no criminal record, since failure of either would likely make it next to impossible in convincing an insurance company to take the increased risk and issue an executor bond. The cost of the bond itself is paid from estate assets. Note, however, a will has the discretion to waive the bond requirement if the decedent has faith that the named executor is trustworthy and doesn’t represent a risk of pillaging or mismanaging estate assets.

As with many things within the legal system, the final approval for executor appointment lies with the probate court. So, regardless of whether the formal requirements are met, a probate court may still reject an executor election and appoint a third-party administrator if a potential executor is perceived as unfit to serve. Since, a major purpose of drafting a will is to control who distributes estate assets, naming an Ohio estate attorney as a primary or successor executor is advisable as a probate court would have little reason to protest such an appointment.

Why is an executor needed?

The duties of an executor aren’t easy, however, there is satisfaction knowing that you did right by your friend or family. The duties of an executor are specific to each particular estate, however, there is a “core” group of duties and tasks each executor must fulfill. Every executor must:

  1. File the will and probate petition in probate court where decedent was domiciled at time of death and petition the court for executor appointment.
  2. Take possession, catalogue, and value all estate property within 3 months of filing the will for probate.
  3. Maintain and protect estate assets for the duration of the probate proceedings.
  4. Directly notify creditors, debtors, financial institutions, utilities, and government agencies of decedent’s death.
  5. 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.
  6. Pay or satisfy any outstanding debts or obligations of decedent.
  7. Represent decedent during probate court proceedings.
  8. Locate heirs and named beneficiaries and distribute respective bequests at the appropriate time.

These duties occur during the probate process, which is a major reason why probate takes many months to complete. Because probate is such a time-intensive and laborious process, many people chose trust-based estate plans that avoid probate entirely. With trusts, estate assets can be distributed right away, no executor 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.

What if some dies without a will so that there isn’t an executor?

If someone dies without a will, i.e. intestate, the probate court will appoint an administrator for the estate. The formal requirements for an administrator are the same as an executor except administrators must be also an Ohio resident while executors can be anyone. The duties administrators perform are largely the same as executors.

Granted, the final result of the probate process is the same regardless of whether an estate is administrated by an executor or appointed administrator, however, who knows who the court ultimately will appoint. As such, it is always preferable to elect an executor an ensure a responsible and diligent friend or family member will manage your estate and see that final wishes are followed. Those living without a will or trust are playing with fire and could end up seeing significant portions of lifetime earnings or assets going to irresponsible family members or eaten by taxes.

If I’ve been named as an executor, do I have to be one?

No, there is no legal requirement to take on the responsibilities of executor, however, resigning will likely put the surviving family in a serious bind and force a probate court to appoint an administrator. An executor resignation, prior to or during probate proceedings, must follow established procedures and use particular legal forms specific to each probate jurisdiction. Consulting an estate attorney is the best way to find out what these procedures are and if resigning is necessary in the circumstances.

Executor appointment is not a job to underestimate. Often, the labor and time spent in fulfilling the duties go underappreciated, but it is critical to wrapping up decedent’s life and giving closure to friends and family. Though sometimes thankless, executors are entitled to compensation in Ohio. Namely, if executor sells real estate or personal property, they are entitled to 4% of the first $100,000, 3% of the next $300,000, and 2% of any remaining value. Further, 1% may be charged for any non-probate assets. Executor fees and the associated tax consequences are potentially complex issues, as such, contacting a Cleveland estate attorney is sensible.

For more information, you can contact Mike Benjamin of Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723. Baron Law LLC is a Cleveland, Ohio area law firm focusing on estate planning and elder law. Mike can also be reached at mike@baronlawcleveland.com.

 

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.
“He who is always his own counselor will often have a fool for his client.” Old English Proverb est. circa

 

Baron Law Cleveland, Ohio

Procedures To Shorten Or Avoid Probate Of An Estate

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, Ohio, offers the following information on what types of probate procedures shorten or avoid the need to probate and estate when speaking with your attorney when you are establishing your comprehensive estate plan.

When an individual dies, their “probate assets,” such as property not dispensed via beneficiary designations, transfer on death designations, or held within trust, go through probate.   

Probate is the legal process provided by Ohio law where a probate court “sets the table” to administer a decedent’s estate. Namely, the probate court appoints an authorized fiduciary for decedent’s estate, determines the validity of a will, if there was one, oversees the determination of probate assets of decedent, and ensures probate assets are collected, maintained, and distributed to the proper parties according to decedent’s last wishes or, if there was no will, according to the laws of Ohio.  

 Probate is not a straight-forward process and it takes, usually, at least six months to complete and close an estate. Therefore, the two most common questions clients of estate planning attorneys ask is, why does probate take so long and how can we shorten or avoid the probate process. There’s a handful a probate processes one can use, if the circumstances of the estate qualify, within the Ohio legal codes to shorten or avoid the need to administrate probate. The following are of the few most widely used accompanied by minor explanations. Naturally, a Cleveland estate planning attorney can provide more expansive elaboration on these processes and guide you towards the ones that are best suited for a particular situation.  

Filing Will for Record Only

 A Will can be filed with the probate court when no probate administration is expected or required for the estate. For this type of probate proceeding, no appointment of an executor is needed. The benefits of going this route is administration costs are totally avoided but since the Will was properly delivered to the court, federal estate tax returns can be filed and exemplified copies of the filed Will are obtainable for out-of-state probate proceedings. This process is often used when certified copies of a Will are needed for administrations of out-of-state property owned by Ohio residents.  

 Summary Release from Administration 

 A summary release from administration is the most abbreviated probate proceeding for obtaining a release of assets. Usually, this type is used for small estates, such as those with minor amounts of personal property or a small bank account to distribute. The most common situation where a person would go this route is to get reimbursement from the estate for funeral expenses. Again, no executor is appointed in this proceeding.  

 Ohio law, however, does limit which estates may use this type of probate proceeding. This process may only if used if either:   

 

  • If value of the assets of the decedent’s estate does not exceed the lesser of $5,000 or the amount of the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, any person who is not a surviving spouse and who has paid or is obligated in writing to pay the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, may apply to the probate court for an order granting a summary release from administration: or 

 

  • There is a surviving spouse, the decedent’s probate assets do not exceed $45,000, the spouse is entitled to 100 percent of the family allowance, and the funeral bill has been prepaid or the surviving spouse is obligated to pay the funeral bill.  

 Release from Administration 

 A release from administration is the next tier up in regards to available abbreviated probate proceedings for obtaining a release of estate assets. No executor is appointed for this proceeding but a commissioner might be used if the facts surrounding the estate are more complicated than anticipated or if a determination of decedent’s ownership rights is necessary. 

 For this proceeding, the applicant certifies the nature and value of the probate assets to the court and the identity of decedent’s creditors and the amounts they are owed. If the decedent died testate, i.e. with a valid Will, the application to relieve the estate from administration is filed with the Will, along with all of the forms necessary to admit a Will for probate. Further, the decedent’s next of kin and devisees under the Will are notified and are parties to this process. If everything goes as it should and all the requirements are met, the probate court will issue an order releasing the probate assets, the payment to creditors with valid claims, and the distribution of probate assets.     

 Again, Ohio law does limit which estates qualify to use this type of probate proceeding. The process may be used only if either: 

  •  There is no surviving spouse or the surviving spouse is not entitled to all probate assets and the probate assets are $35,000 or less and the decedent died on or after November 9, 1994. (Different asset levels apply for qualification if decedent died prior to this date.)  

 

  •  The surviving spouse is entitled to all of the probate assets and the probate assets are $100,000 or less and the decedent died on or after March 18, 1999. (Again, different asset levels apply for qualification if decedent died prior to this date.) 

 Avoiding or limiting the probate process through selective use of codified probate processes is one way of preserving estate assets and saving everyone’s time. There are, however, other methods that avoid probate but also carry positive benefits for the estate, heirs, and intended beneficiaries. Creative and conscientious use of estate planning tools such as trusts, pour-over wills, and P.O.D. and T.O.D. designations can see even more savings for friends and family of a recently deceased. Contact a local Ohio estate attorney and find out the best way to plan your estate to maximize what is left behind for those you love and save time and expenses when going through probate.   

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

 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.   

 

 

 

 

Baron Law Estate Planning Attorney

Probate Is Expensive And Time-Consuming. Here Are Ways To Avoid Probate

Cleveland, Ohio, estate planning law firm, Baron Law LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, offers the following information on you can avoid probate when you are thinking of establishing your comprehensive estate plan.

All too often people draft a last will and testament, shove the document in a safety deposit box at the local bank, and never give it another thought. Granted, a cavalier attitude towards one’s estate plan is a bold strategy but at best it’s costing thousands of dollars down the line, at worst the will isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and the surviving family is left the deal with a tangled mess of who gets what. A comprehensive estate plan drafted by competent counsel will cost is a little now but save you a lot later.

A last will and testament is primarily meant to memorialize instructions for the distribution of assets, obligations, and wealth when someone dies. The process in which a will is read, followed, and, if necessary, contested is called probate. This process also applies if someone dies intestate, that is, without a will, but state law is followed instead of explicit instructions given in a will. Probate isn’t a necessarily evil process but it is labor intensive and costly. Probate is a legal process undertaken in state court under the watchful gaze of the assigned probate judge. As such, probate often takes many months to complete during which court costs continue to accrue. Even after a moderate probate process, probate costs can reach as much as 10% of the gross estate. Money better spent on more pressing concerns like funeral expenses or lingering medical costs. Further, during probate, beneficiaries don’t have access to the property bequeathed to them until probate is finished, regardless of whether the will is contested or not.

Since everyone prefers to preserve the most amount of assets to leave to surviving friends and family and provide access to such assets quickly, avoiding probate whenever possible is advantageous. Below are the most common ways probate is avoided.

Beneficiary Designations

Some major assets such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, like IRAs and 401(k)s, are inherently outside of probate due to their mandated beneficiary designations. The owner of these assets at creation is required to denote primary and contingent beneficiaries in the event of death. Thus, these assets transfer directly and immediately to listed beneficiaries without the need of court intervention.

Though not as straight forward as simple beneficiary designations, other assets such as bank accounts and non-retirement investment accounts can utilize payable-on-death or transfer-on-death beneficiary designations. To enable payable-on-death beneficiary designations for bank accounts or transfer-on-death beneficiary designations for non-retirement investment accounts, contact the relevant brokerage firm or bank and request the standardized forms. Such designations are becoming more common, as such, all major financial institutions have standardized forms available upon request. The major hurdle is actually requesting the forms, completing them properly, then returning them to the institution. Retaining a local Cleveland area estate attorney can guarantee these forms are completed timely, properly, and in the correct circumstances.

For real estate, Ohio uses transfer-on-death designation affidavits as an avenue to avoid probate. Since 2009, real estate can transfer outside of probate if an affidavit is drafted with the following:

  • It describes the property and denotes its instrument number.
  • It describes the portion of property subject to transfer.
  • It denotes whether the owner is married. If married, the spouse must sign as well.
  • It names one or more beneficiary.
  • It is signed, notarized, and filed before the death of the owner.

Beneficiary designations serve as explicit instructions regarding transfer of ownership upon death. Probate fundamentally exists to ensure a decedent’s assets go where the decedent wanted them to. So, if a decedent left explicit instructions in the form of beneficiary designations, there is little reason to subject the applicable asset to probate.

Joint Ownership

Joint property by its very nature avoids probate. Joint property, for example, joint and survivor deeds or a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, passes to the surviving joint owners when one owner dies. The transfer occurs immediately and no probate process is undertaken in regards to the joint asset. This type of ownership is mostly commonly associated with martial homes and assets obtained during marriage. Though marriage is the most common circumstance of joint ownership, it is not exclusive.

Forming a joint ownership relationship is relatively simple in most instances, however, these methods of ownership can present issues regarding trust and control of the property. Namely, there must be mutual trust and confidence between joint owners to upkeep and manage the property. Furthermore, the rights of ownership of joint property depend on the type of joint ownership created. Depending on the type of joint ownership, the use, control, and financial and legal responsibility assigned to each joint owner can vary. Some individuals are uneasy depending upon another to take care of a significant asset. The last thing anyone wants is to get locked into ownership over something expensive with an unstable, lazy, or irresponsible co-owner.

Joint ownership in certain circumstances is practical way to avoid expensive probate costs and lengthy holds on the transfer of ownership in the event of death. There are, however, significant considerations and potential negatives as well. Concerns of concurrent ownership during life may eclipse any probate avoidance benefits down the line. A local Cleveland area estate attorney is in the best position to analyze your estate planning needs and can tell you if joint ownership is advantageous to your situation.

Trusts

Trusts are a commonly recommended estate planning vehicle which affords unparalleled estate planning flexibility. Any quick internet search will illustrate, at length, about the numerous advantages of using trusts during estate planning. Whether looking to avoid probate, control assets pre or post death, or reduce or avoid estate and inheritance taxes, trust utilization is a highly effective option that should always be investigated. Contact a local Cleveland area estate attorney to find out how trusts can benefit you and your family.

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. Within the context of this discussion, however, the critical aspect of trusts is that the assets housed within them usually avoid probate. 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. Thus, when the owner dies, the assets are not in the owner’s estate and subject to probate. The assets in question pass via the beneficiary designations set down when the trust was created. As mentioned previously, conveyance via beneficiary designation is much simpler, quicker, and cost-effective then the probate process.

The best way to avoid probate and preserve the most amount of money and property for surviving family is situational and based upon individual need and preference. A person may want to avoid probate for Medicaid qualification reasons, privacy concerns, or just to ensure as much money as possible passes to heirs. As such, a visit with a Cleveland area estate planning attorney can the provide proper guidance and evaluation of potential estate planning strategies. An hour with an estate attorney can answer any questions you might have and set you on the path to dealing with some of life’s most critical issues.

For more information, you can contact Mike Benjamin of Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723. Baron Law LLC is a Cleveland, Ohio area law firm focusing on estate planning and elder law. Mike can also be reached at mike@baronlawcleveland.com.

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.
“He who is always his own counselor will often have a fool for his client.” Old English Proverb est. circa