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.

Hot Powers

“Hot Powers”: What Are They And Should You Give Them?

Who will manage my finances and investments if I am sick or incapacitated? Who will pick what doctor treats me or if a risky but potentially lifesaving procedure should be performed? What if I am put on life sustaining medical support? These are the sorts of questions and issues typically handled by your power of attorney. As they suggest, these are critically important decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Fundamentally, however, these issues can only be handled by your power of attorney if they possess authority, given by you and in writing, to do so. This is why ever since 2012, when Ohio law changed, “hot powers” are a significant topic for you to discuss with your estate planning attorney.

I. Durable Power of Attorney

To understand what hot powers are, you must understand what a power of attorney is. A financial power of attorney, also known as a durable power of attorney, is a legal document that a person can use to appoint someone to act on his or her behalf, i.e. an agency appointment. A power of attorney comes in many forms, but its primary purpose is to grant authority to one or more responsible parties to handle financial or health decisions of a person in the event of illness or other incapacity. Life, and its associated obligations and burdens, tend to continue regardless of one’s physical or mental health. Powers of attorney are protection that ensures affairs are handled and medical wishes are followed even if you are lacking capacity in mind or body.

As stated, powers of attorneys come in many forms. A financial power of attorney, as the name suggests, grants your agent the authority to make financial decisions for you. Managing investments, buying selling land or property, representing you in business negotiations, etc. Healthcare power of attorney works the same way but with healthcare decisions. If you are incapacitated or otherwise can’t decide for yourself, your agent will decide who your doctor is, what treatment you undergo, what medication should be administered, etc.

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

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

II. “Hot Powers”

So, where do “hot powers” fit in all this. Effective March 22, 2012, Ohio adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, or UPOAA, which was focused on preventing financial elder abuse. Now, powers of attorney must include a statutory language designed to help prevent agents from abusing their power. Put simply, the law now demands power of use more specific drafting and specific denotation “hot powers.”

“Hot powers” grant extraordinary powers to your agent and often these powers can have the effect of altering your estate plan. As such, these powers must be expressly granted per statutory guidelines before they are used by your agent. The most popular of them is the power to gift money or property. “Hot powers” are often used to continue a plan of gifting, sheltering money or property from costs of late life healthcare. Specified gifting “hot powers” can gift anywhere from a limited dollar amount or unlimited, dependent on the scope of the “hot powers” granted and the goals of your estate plan. Further, this power can also be limited to a class of people, such as spouse or children.

Since this new law, third parties such as a financial institution are not required to honor a general power of attorneys. Now, the law asks that a power of attorney include specifically which types of assets and accounts the agent is allowed to control. The spirit of this change is to 1) ensure individuals specifically know and agree to the powers they are giving, and 2) there will no longer be agents running around with “golden tickets” that allow them to do whatever they want to under the sun.

III. Should you give “hot powers”

Like every question in estate planning, whether you should give “hot powers” is circumstantial. The main consideration is who will be given the powers and under what terms. As stated above, “hot powers” are extraordinary powers meaning in the wrong hands they are really screw up your life and a well-crafted estate plan.

Regardless of whether you give these powers or not, it is probably wise to have your Cleveland estate planning attorney look at your powers of attorney if it has been more than five years. The law and your personal circumstances change quite often. Note, a power of attorney created before the 2012 law change will still be valid, however, it may be deficient in expected ways, ways that could hurt you down the line. In sum, the 2012 change means agents are prohibited from performing certain acts unless the power of attorney specifically authorizes them. Because financial power of attorney documents give significant powers to another person, they should be granted only after careful consideration and consultation with experienced legal counsel.

 

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 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.

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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 Cleveland Trust

Ohio Trusts – Can Out-Of-State Lawyers Draft Them?

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 […]

Baron Law Cleveland Ohio

What Are Choice Of Law Provisions And Why Do They Matter?

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 […]

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