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Business Attorney Baron Law

The Difference Between Business As Usual And Bankruptcy. Here Are Two Ohio Laws That All Business Owners Must Know!

Every business and every business owner should be aware if and how the Consumer Sales Protection Act (“CSPA”) and/or the Home Solicitation Sales Act (“HSSA”) effects their business. On the first day of law school, every new law student learns that ignorance of the law is no defense. The same applies to business owners. In the context of CSPA or HSSA violations, being unaware of the law, which in turn leads to noncompliance of the law, can open you up to thousands of dollars in damages, discretionary rescission of expensive contracts, and ruin your hard-earned professional reputation. The CSPA and HSSA are lengthy statutes which cover a multitude of business and scenarios and, as such, require an experienced hand to walk you through all the wrinkles and hurdles. If your personal knowledge of these statutes is lacking, never hesitate to contact an experienced Cleveland business attorney. A little forethought now, can save you a whole lot later.    

  • What is the CSPA and HSSA? 

The Ohio CSPA is located under Chapter 1345 of the Ohio Revised code. In a nutshell, the CSPA prohibits “suppliers” from committing unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection with a “consumer transaction.” Naturally who is and is not a “supplier” and what is or is not a “consumer transaction” under the CSPA are pivotal first points of analysis. Further, the CSPA does not stand alone. The CSPA works in conjunction with Ohio’s HSSA. Again, to simplify everything, the CSPA is a list of things considered unfair or deceptive acts or practices and denotes potential avenues for redress of legal grievances for harmed customers. On top of the CSPA, the HSSA also provides an additional list of things considered unfair or deceptive acts or practices and denotes potential avenues for redress of legal grievances for harmed customers but with slightly different triggering circumstances, i.e. the existence of a home solicitation sale, hence the name, and different recovery options for customers.  

  • Why should business owners care about the CSPA and HSSA? 

Many businesses and industries are subject to the laws and requirements of the CSPA and HSSA without even knowing it. Thus, these businesses are running around selling services and completing jobs all the while exposing themselves to massive amounts of potential liability. Remember, ignorance of the law is no defense and all it takes is one persnickety consumer to ruin your whole fiscal year and eat all your profits through litigation.   

In the context of home improvement, residential contractors, HVAC, roofers, electricians, landscapers, concrete work, repairs companies, and other home sale situations, to name only few, if a company has committed an unfair and deceptive trade practice, a consumer often has 1) the right to cancel the agreement, 2) receive a full refund, and 3) depending on the circumstances may not even have to return any materials or pay for any labor already performed.  

The CSPA includes a non-exclusive list of specific acts and practices that are conclusively “unfair and deceptive” and therefore violate Ohio law. The CSPA, via the HSSA, also includes specific “home solicitation sale” remedies, one of which includes a statutory right to a three-day right to cancel period when the contract is signed at the consumer’s residence. Every seller must notify the buyer of his or her right to cancel the sale and provide the buyer with a “Notice of Cancellation” form that the buyer can use to cancel the sale, both the notice and the form to cancel have specific statutory requirements. If the supplier fails to include notice and proper language regarding this 3-day right in the contract or use the proper forms, consumers are entitled to cancel their agreement whenever they wish because the 3-day timer never started. Courts have said in these situations that the right to cancel never expired, even many years after the job was done. Only following the law by delivering proper documents does a supplier start the clock. In turn, this allows homeowners to bring a claim for a refund or to get out of paying money owed on a contract well after the two-year statute of limitations under the CSPA has run out. 

  • Recent changes in the CSPA and HSSA. 

As previously stated, the CSPA and HSSA together represent a list of unfair and deceptive trade practices which often triggers liability for the offending company. Ohio Senate Bill 227, which became effective on April 6, 2017, added a new practice to this list that is conclusively violative, as in if you do it, legally there is no discussion over whether it was “unfair and deceptive” under the CSPA, it just is. This new violation is: 

“[T]he failure of a supplier to obtain or maintain any registration, license, bond, or insurance required by state law or local ordinance for the supplier to engage in the supplier’s trade or profession is an unfair or deceptive act or practice.” 

In short, under current Ohio law, even the most careful and observant supplier can violate the CSPA/HSSA by failing to timely renew any registration, license, bond, or insurance that the supplier is required to maintain under state or local law. As such, ignorance can no longer be the standard operating procedure for services such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing or refrigeration work, and other suppliers of home services. Further, for businesses who use outside contractors or other temporary workers, the risk is even more severe. Now you must be sure not only are you and your employees bonded and licensed, but any contractors have the proper paper work as well, even though technically, they are not your employees. Often courts find the burden is on the business to make due diligence and ensure compliance, responsibility must fall somewhere, and it sure isn’t going to fall on the consumer. 

Furthermore, albeit a more minor change, Senate Bill 227 also updates the Notice of Cancellation requirements under the HSSA to include fax or e-mail options, which the supplier must provide. In turn, the customer/buyer can now cancel the sale by delivering the Notice of Cancellation “in person or manually” or by “facsimile transmission or electronic mail” to the seller. As such, even a minor oversight such as not including fax or e-mail cancellations options on standard forms can open up a world of litigation pain on an unknowing business. 

A law without consequences is a paper tiger. You may ask yourself, who cares if technically my business engages in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Well, for CSPA and HSSA violations, often customers are entitled to triple damages and attorney’s fees, good for them, bad for business owners. No stretch of the imagination to see a couple of CSPA/HSSA lawsuits can kill a profitable business real quick. Notice, under Ohio law it doesn’t matter if failure of compliance was willful or inadvertent, the only thing that matters is did you break the law. This is why it is important to maintain a good and ongoing relationship with a local Cleveland business attorney. Often the legal requirements for local business are buried deep within local ordinances and administrative code. Remember, what you don’t know can hurt you and, just like everything else with a business, it is on owners to stay current, but most especially, compliant with any recent changes in Ohio law.  

 

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.

 

Charitable Trust Attorney

Thinking Of Giving To A Charity? Consider A Charitable Remainder Trust.

Significant and stable retirement income, reduction in taxes, whether income, capital gains, or estate respectively, and the provision of critical needed support for worthy charitable organizations and endeavors. If any, or all, of these sound good to you and your estate planning goals, charitable remainder trusts might be a useful option. Charitable remainder trusts, not to be confused with charitable lead trusts, is a way many people are planning for retirement but also “paying it forward.”  

  • What is a Charitable Remainder Trust? 

A charitable remainder trust is a type of irrevocable trust. Irrevocable trusts are trusts in which the grantor, you, relinquishes all control and ownership over the trust and the assets used to fund the trust. Thus, the trust cannot be changed or canceled without the beneficiaries’ permission. Prior to trust formation, the grantor can dictate whatever terms desired to govern the trust, but after formation, those terms control independent of grantor’s wishes and desires. 

What makes an ordinary irrevocable trust in to a charitable remainder trust are a few unique characteristics. Namely, the guiding purpose of the trust and the remainder interest. First, usually, the primary goals with a charitable remainder trust is to reduce taxes and provide additional retirement income. The namesake charitable remainder, however, denotes that eventually, after the grantor passes, whatever is left over in the trust, the remainder, is given to a chosen charity.   

  • How do Charitable Remainder Trusts help pay for retirement? 

The name of game is tax reduction and maximizing potential income production, but how do charitable remainder trusts accomplish this. In a nutshell, it begins with transferring high valued assets into an irrevocable trust, thus initially avoiding estate taxes when making the trust.  

After funding, assets are then sold by the trustee, thus avoiding capital gains on the sale, and these proceeds are reinvested into income producing assets, which can add to available retirement income. Additionally, after you pass, the whatever is left in trust, the remainder, passes on to the charitable beneficiary. The precise manner how a grantor will receive income is usually either a fixed distribution rate via percentage value of appreciated assets or a flat amount of actual income earned by trust assets.   

It should be noted, that charitable remainder trusts should not be viewed as the primary vehicle in which an individual will pay for retirement, these trusts really supplement income more than anything. This reality is largely due to the nature of these trusts. A large trust funding takes full advantage of the associated tax breaks, has the ability to earn significant and usable income for retirement expenses based off the initial principle funding, and, at the end of life, represent a charitable contribution large enough to actually make a different in the world. Thus, if an estate is healthy enough in which a charitable remainder trust is an attractive option, usually the grantor(s) have a lesser concern with the financials of old age.  

  • How are Charitable Remainder Trusts taxed?  

At initial funding of a charitable remainder trust, estate tax is avoided on the assets placed in trust and an immediate charitable income tax deduction is enjoyed. The charitable income tax deduction often bumps the grantor down to a lower tax bracket for the year. Additionally, capital gains are avoided when the trustee liquidates trust assets for reinvestment.  

Regarding annual personal income tax for monies distributed from the trust, this is usually paid per your individual income tax rate, however, often at this point in people’s lives, when they are no longer personally working, and most money and assets have already been transferred into various estate planning tools, people are often in the lowest tax bracket. Further, though distributions from a charitable remainder trust are taxable income, often, if proper estate planning was implemented, the total amount for a taxable estate is so low for a person that distributions for a charitable remainder trust are, for all intents and purposes, tax free. 

  • Do I give up control over what I put in my Charitable Remainder Trust? 

No, the trustee you select to manage the trust will govern the trust and its assets according to the rules and terms you dictate at creation. You are always in control. Further, grantors may retain the right to change the trustee if they are doing a poor job or change the charity to another qualified charity without losing any past or future tax advantages.  

  • If I help out my favorite charity with a Charitable Remainder Trusts, won’t my children be mad? 

The happiness of your friends and family all comes down to proper planning. For those people with sizable estates, it is no problem to leave significant money to both children and favorite charities, there’s more than enough for everyone. There is a common concern, however, that people with modest estates don’t have the option to charitably bequest anything, I mean, there’s only so much to go around right?  

Not exactly. Yes, it is correct that money and assets are finite, but, with the income tax savings inherent in using a charitable remainder trust, a person always has the option to either fund an irrevocable life insurance trust or buy a life insurance policy outright. Either way, the life insurance purchased with the tax savings can replace the full value of any assets left to charity and make sure any surviving children receive their full inheritance as well. Using life insurance, via trust or ordinary policy, also avoids probate concerns and income taxes. Estate tax and asset protection concerns, however, on any policy proceeds will only be addressed through the use of a life insurance trust. Ensuring children aren’t left out in the cold when it comes to inheritance is a major concern for most people, make sure your Ohio estate planning attorney is giving a comprehensive rundown of all of your estate planning options, life insurance options included.      

If you think a charitable remainder trust could help you and your family, speak with your Ohio estate planning attorney. You can convert appreciated assets into lifetime income. You can receive an immediate charitable income tax deduction. You can remove assets from your estate, thus reducing estate taxes. And since no capital gains apply when the assets are sold, you receive more to reinvest in income generating property. All of which is in addition to make a substantial gift to your favorite charity.  

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Estate Planning Lawyer

Common Questions With Inherited IRA’s

Most of us don’t have millions of dollars in liquid assets to fund our retirements. Ordinary people use common investment tools such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, simplified employee pension plans (“SEPs”), and savings incentive match plans for employees (“SIMPLE IRAs”) to pay for healthcare and living expenses in old age. The main goal for any retirement plan is for an individual or couple to outlive their savings, and often, if proper planning is implemented, this is the case. So, what happens to these retirement accounts after their owners pass away? What do sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, or even close friends do with these accounts if they are named beneficiaries? This is often where inherited IRAs and their confusing rules regarding mandatory distributions come into play. Though creating an IRA is simple, when it comes to inheritance and asset distribution, most people don’t know where to start. That is why an advance discussion with a Cleveland estate planning attorney or tax advisor can give you the information needed to avoid unintended consequences with inheriting an IRA.    

  • What is an Inherited IRA? 

A cavalier attitude for IRA owners and their beneficiaries can lead to paying higher taxes, triggering penalties, or giving up future opportunities for tax-advantaged, or tax-fee, growth. This first step to avoiding these outcomes is to know what an inherited IRA is. 

In a nutshell, an inherited IRA is a retirement account that is opened when a person inherits an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan after the account holder dies. The assets held in the deceased individual’s IRA is transferred into a new inherited IRA in the beneficiary’s name. Usually, the account is transferred, inherited, via a beneficiary designation. This is why inherited IRAs are also referred to “beneficiary IRAs.” The rules that govern the transfer of the account assets, however, depends heavily on whether the beneficiary is a spouse or non-spouse. 

The big concern with inherited IRAs is the schedule for required mandatory distributions, namely when do they have to begin. When required mandatory distributions must begin and how they are measured is nuanced and depends on a variety of factors such as beneficiary age, age of the deceased own, type of IRA, income needs, and creditor protection concerns. Most people are unfamiliar of all the rules and considerations associated with inheriting IRAs, as such, always talk to an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney if you have any doubt with the proper course of action in your circumstances.  

  • Options for Spouses 

The name of the game for spouses is rollover. Spouses can transfer the deceased spouse’s IRA into their name and defer distributions until required mandatory distributions are triggered. (When, however, these distributions must start is a fact sepcfiic question to bring up with your attorney). This rollover allows tax-advantaged growth of the IRA funds to continue with no interruption. It is critical, however, that the spouse take no direct control of inherited IRA funds or else a taxable event will be triggered. The good news is surviving spouses have 60 days from receiving inherited distributions to roll them into their own IRAs without a problem as long as no issues regarding required minimum distribution are present. Note, though rollover is often the most popular option, you always have the option to cash out the IRA, just be aware of what benefits you’re forfeiting and also any potential penalties and/or personal tax liabilities.   

  • Options for Non-Spouses 

Unfortunately, non-spouses do not have the option to rollover and the rules for them are quite a bit more complex. Option one for non-spouses is to disclaim all or part of the deceased owner’s IRA assets. This decision must be made within nine months of the original IRA owner’s death and before possession of the assets occurs. This is usually done by named beneficiaries who wish to avoid being kicked up to a higher tax bracket which, in turn, would practically eat everything inherited anyways via state and federal taxation. 

Option two is to cash out the IRA either immediately or within five years. Taxes will be paid on the amount of distribution, but no 10% IRA early withdraw penalty will accrue. With this option the IRA assets must be exhausted by December 31st of the fifth year following the original IRA owner’s death. This five-year period allows some planning to occur to mitigate any potential tax hit, but, if an IRA is large enough, state and federal taxes will eat a large part regardless.  

Option three is to transfer assets from the deceased owner’s IRA into an inherited IRA and take required minimum distributions in order stretch out the potential tax hit and fully exploit the tax-advantage status of an inherited IRA. As a general rule, the IRS requires non-spouse inherited IRA owners to start taking required minimum distributions starting December 31 after the year of death of the original account owner, and each year thereafter. Also, distributions from inherited IRAs taken before age 59½ are not subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in most cases. The rules and guidelines regarding these required mandatory distributions can be confusing and are highly dependent on the particular facts surrounding the IRA inheritance.  

The calculated amount of required mandatory distributions for non-spouses is determined via IRS life expectancy tables, IRS required mandatory distribution guidelines, and IRS criteria based on your age, life expectancy, number of named beneficiaries, type of original IRA, and age of deceased IRA owner. When distributions must start, if at all, how much each distribution must be, and whose life expectancy will govern the distribution schedule are each questions that all competent estate planning attorneys will discuss with you and plan for. Planning IRA inheritance for non-spouses is no easy task but it represents an often critical retirement issue that goes unaddressed and causes massive tax problems for beneficiaries.  

Most people who use retirement accounts are at least semi-knowledgeable when it comes to creating and managing IRAs, but very few are concerned about what happens after they pass on. This is where your legal and tax advisers come in. Proper planning and conversation with your estate planning attorney can avoid higher taxes for beneficiaries, triggering penalties, and giving up future tax-advantaged, or tax-fee, growth. Properly planning for retirement not only is a concern for you, but also for the friends and family you leave behind.  

Disclaimer: 

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

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Family Law

Divorcing Late In Life? Estate Planning Considerations You Need To Know.

Unfortunately, “till death do us part” doesn’t seem to have the same weight or meaning that it had back in the day. Per the American Psychological Association, more than 90 percent of people marry by the age of 50, however, more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Further, the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. An often-neglected aspect of divorce is the chaos it often makes of a well-crafted estate plan. Usually, the consequences of divorce in the context of estate planning isn’t realized until too late and significant time and money are wasted. The good news, however, is that these problems are easily avoided with a little foresight, or at least competent counsel from your Ohio estate planning attorney. Note, your estate planning attorney can only protect you if he knows what is going on, so, if any significant life events have occurred recently in your life, call your attorney and see if anything needs to be done.  

  • Why divorce matters in estate planning.  

First step in fixing or avoiding a problem is understanding what the problem is. So, why is divorce so significant in the context of estate planning? At the end of the day, it all focuses around who gets what and when. With marriage, in the eyes of the law, two people become one. Thus, both are owners, and both have entitlements when they split. Figuring out a fair split of all the property of marriage is regularly a contentious, long, and expensive process.  

This commingling of assets is what makes divorce so difficult, even if prenuptial agreements are in place. What’s considered separate property? What’s considered joint? Definitions vary by state, but in general separate property includes any property owned by either spouse prior to the marriage and any inheritances or gifts received by either spouse, before or during the marriage. Trusts can be used to house assets in separate ownership from a spouse, but this is not an airtight defense. Careful management and access restrictions must be drafted in the trust documents because, in the event of divorce, you can bet your bottom dollar your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s attorney will use all his wit and guile to get at whatever is in trust. 

On the opposite side, marital property is typically any property that is acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse owns or holds title to the property. This is almost always subject to equitable division during divorce, again, a prenuptial is no guarantee, recent case law is full of court decisions disregarding these agreements for a variety of reasons.  

Always remember that marital property isn’t just houses and cars but also pension plans, 401(k)s, IRAs, stock options, life insurance, closely held businesses and more. Further, if separately owned property increases in value during the marriage, that increase is also considered marital property. As a rule, if something holds value, it will be fought over during divorce.  Due to the complexities involved when it comes to dividing assets, a marital property agreement can help clear up any confusion surrounding the ownership of assets, but this alone is insufficient protection if you fall on the wrong side of the 50 percent divorce rate.  

  • Divorce Estate Planning Strategies  

After the long and arduous task of dividing assets, the next step is to reorganize an estate plan to match the new realities of your life. After divorce, but especially if remarriage is a possibility trusts should be established to protect your self-interests and children of your previous marriage, wills must be rewritten, often to at least counter an existing will which named a now ex-spouse as executor, and beneficiary designations must be changed, designations which often were made years ago and given little, if any, thought.   

  • Establish 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. Trusts come in many forms and are established to accomplish many different things. A revocable living trust fits most situations and can serve as the foundation of your estate plan. While not all trusts are created equally and not all trusts afford the same level of protection, without fail trusts provide greater protection for beneficiaries than outright distributions. 

  • Update Beneficiary Designations 

To guarantee your estate planning goals are met and your money goes where you want it to, ensure that all beneficiary forms and designations are updated following marriage, divorce, or re-marriage. Life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts often represent significant portions of your estate, as such, beneficiary designations should generally pay the proceeds to your trust, if designated correctly. Trust utilization allows control while allowing these proceeds pass directly to an individual represents a risk of mismanagement or squandering. 

  • Update Last Will and Testament  

At the beginning of every will there is language specifically disavowing all previous wills and codicils. This is included as boilerplate language because people forget to do it regularly. In the same vein, especially in the context of divorce or remarriage, update your will to reflect your current familial situation. Personal property bequest, executor appointments, and guardian designations all should be current and accurately reflected in your will.   

  • Adequate Bookkeeping  

Knowledge is power and what you don’t know can hurt you. Regularly go through documents, make important designations current, and account for all of your assets. Outdated information and kill a well-drafted will, trusts, and/or beneficiary designation form. Oversights and neglect can cause estate planning headaches that are easily avoided with a little effort and regular meetings with your Cleveland estate planning attorney. 

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 LLC Cleveland Ohio

I’m Thinking Of Incorporating My Business, What Is An S Corporation?

Are you thinking of incorporating your business? Have you considered becoming an “S Corporation” instead. Cleveland Business Attorney Baron Law LLC offers you the following information to consider before making the choice. What are the advantages of becoming an “S Corp”?

Nowadays many businesses are taking advantage of incorporation to protect themselves and their owners. A common question is which type of business structure is best. Should I create an LLC, C-Corp, or S-Corp? Sole-Proprietorship? Partnership?

As with many legal and economic questions, the answer isn’t black and white. The reason there are so many options when forming your business is because every business venture is different and possesses different opportunities and issues. That is why a good business attorney is invaluable. Ultimately, knowing which type of business entity to create is best found out through experience, and a good Ohio business attorney will have the necessary experience to help you make the best decision. For this discussion, though, S-Corporations are the focus. “S-Corps” have been steadily rising in popularity in recent years and many small business owners are wondering if and how using this type of incorporation is right for them.

What is an S corporation?

An S corporation is a pro-profit corporate structure that elected to be taxed under Subsection S of the Internal Revenue Code. Such election subjects the corporation to “pass-through” taxation while still retaining many of the benefits of “regular” incorporation.

The first primary distinguishing characteristic of an S-Corp is the pass-through taxation. That is corporate income, losses, deduction, and credits pass through the corporation to its shareholders for federal tax purposes. Thus, the shareholders report the profits and losses of the S-Corp, which is proportionally assigned to each shareholder’s ownership interest, on their individual tax returns and are taxed at individual income tax rates. This effectively avoids the double taxation that regular C-Corporations are subject to.

The second distinguishing characteristic of an S-Corp is the relative difficulty in formation. That is, compared to making an LLC or a C-Corp, the IRS/Secretary of State is much more stringent with the formal requirements of an S-Corp. Consequently, the initial satisfaction of these requirements and the continuing obligations inherent in remaining S-Corp eligible means more paperwork and corporate legwork is needed compared to other corporate forms. Ensuring these requirements are met, every year, is a major reason why Ohio business attorneys are retained. Finding out during tax season that your business was in violation of the IRS code and was subject to a completely different tax structure may leave a company insolvent or unknowingly operating at a loss for the fiscal year. Not exactly a fun conversation to have with shareholders.

What are the requirements of an S corporation?

Per the Internal Revenue Service, to qualify for S corporation status you must first file for “regular” corporate status then elect to become an S-Corp by submitting IRS Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation. In order to file IRS Form 2553, a corporation must observe the following formalities:

The business must be a domestic corporation or a domestic entity eligible to elect to be treated as one.

The business cannot have more than 100 shareholders. (Note, spouses and members of the same family, respectively, are treated as one shareholder.)

The business must only be comprised of allowable shareholders. Only permittable individuals, trusts, and estates under the IRS code. Partnerships, non-resident alien shareholders, and other corporations are not allowed.

The business must only have one class of stock. Generally, a corporation is treated as having only one class of stock if all outstanding shares of the corporation’s stock confer identical rights to distribution and liquidation proceeds.

Each shareholder consents to the S-Corp election and manifests such consent in writing.

The business is not an ineligible corporation for S-Corp election, that is certain financial institutions, insurance companies, possessions corporations, or domestic international sales corporations.

Furthermore, S-Corps must also observe more stringent internal corporate formalities. This proves to the IRS that the S-Corp election, and its accompanying advantages, are being used for legitimate business purposes and not to the detriment of the public or for ill-gain. The logic is if shareholders are willing to follow the rules in regard to corporate management, then probably the business isn’t stealing or hurting people. Some of the required formalities for S-Corporations include: adopting corporate bylaws, issuing stock to shareholders, holding an initial director and shareholder meeting, holding the same meeting at least once a year, and recording and storing meeting minutes within corporate records. An experienced business attorney can draft a comprehensive business plan to follow and assist in its implementation.

What are the benefits of an S corporation?

Asset Protection

All corporations, like LLCs, C-Corps, and S-Corps, provide their owners/shareholders with limited liability protection. Limited liability means that the owners or shareholders personal assets are protected from claims of the creditors of the business. This includes claims that also arise from contract disputes and litigation, either the cost of defending or prosecuting litigation or via adverse judgments against the business. Without this shield, which comes from filing and choosing to operate a business via a corporate form, debts of the business attach to the individuals running the business. In light of this big personal risk, most people would choose not to operate a business. This is why a Cleveland business attorney is so important, these attorneys ensure that the required corporate formalities are followed so the limited liability shield is recognized by the courts and creditors and can protect you.

Pass-Through Taxation

As previously mentioned, S-Corps are classified as pass-through business entities. As such, they avoid double taxation that C-Corps are subject to. Double taxation occurs when dividend income is taxed at both the corporate level, when the business receives the profits, and at the shareholder level, when the shareholder receives their proportionate share of the business dividends. Instead of the IRS getting two bites, with S-Corps they only get one. Further, additional corporate benefits such as business income, tax deductions, losses, and certain credits also can pass through the S-Corp to the shareholders.

Deciding to incorporate and choosing which type of corporate structure to operate as are big decisions. The particular type of corporate form you go with fundamentally affects how you will run and manage your business. A business attorney is in the best position to advise and assist in making the best decision. Regardless of how you incorporate, any comprehensive corporate formation will include, at minimum, an operating agreement, certificates of membership, articles of incorporation, EIN number, subscription agreement, recommendations, and appropriate filing fee. For existing and soon-to-be corporations alike, make sure you have all these documents, failure to do so could cost you thousands of dollars down the line.

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.

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.

Baron Law LLC Estate Planning Attorney

529 Plan For Your Grandchildren

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

In order to become Medicaid eligible, generally, one must have $2,000 or less in assets and earn only $2,205 or less per month in income. There are, however, multiple exceptions which carve out excludable assets, such as the child caregiver exception and the community spouse resource allowance. With the recent upswing in U.S. financial markets, many individuals are asking their estate planners and elder law attorneys ways to save or invest their money but not run afoul of eligibility requirements for government assistance programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Increasing in popularly and meeting this increased need for saving and investment, 529 and 529A plans are widely being used by Ohio estate planning attorneys to great benefit and profitability.

What is a 529 Plan?

A 529 Plan is comparable to a health saving account. Money is put in and receives tax-benefits if used for educational purposes. All of the contributions made to the account grow tax-free and withdrawals are free from federal and state tax if used for qualified higher education expenses. Significantly, contributions to 529 Plans are not tax deductible. 529 Plans allow money to accrue tax free for the benefit of a designated third-party beneficiary while still retaining control of the assets by the owner prior to distribution provided such funds are spent on education.

529 Plans are a countable Medicaid asset because the owner can take their money back out at any time. As such, an individual owning a 529 Plan will face eligibility problems for government assistance programs if the money within a 529 Plan isn’t spent before applying for such assistance. The critical question is who owns the account. If owner reserves right to revoke or take the money within a 529 Plan, Medicaid will require the money to be spent on healthcare, spenddown, before eligibility for Medicaid services. Further, improper distributions, i.e. spending the money in the 529 account for medical bills instead of college, will trigger deferred taxes, plus penalties of 10 percent.

One solution to a mandatory 529 account spenddown is to legally shift the account to a family member of the beneficiary, such as a grandchild’s parents. However, though this effectively transfers control of the money to a third party thus facially making it a noncountable asset, such a transaction is still considered a transfer of assets that triggers a Medicaid penalty period if it occurs within the 5-year lookback window.

At this point, 529 Plans are not a recognized federal exception and no Ohio regulations are on the books exempting 529 Plans as a countable Medicaid asset. As such, estate and Medicaid planners must be aware that even though 529 Plans are attractive vehicles for saving, 529 Plan use may have significant consequences for seniors and individuals in need of government assistance programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Contract a local Cleveland estate planning attorney to find out which saving accounts are preferable for your situation.

What is a 529 A plan?

Often referred to as a STABLE or ABLE account, 529A plans are accounts used as moderate investment vehicles to generate money to pay for approved expenses for the disabled. STABLE accounts are exempted from Medicaid and are not a countable resource. As such, having a STABLE account does not affect Medicaid eligibility. Further, the first $100,000 in a STABLE account is exempt from the Social Security Income limit.

Additionally, taxpayers can deduct contributions up to $​4,000 from their Ohio taxable income per STABLE account, per year, with unlimited carryforward of contributions over the yearly amount. This means that if contributions exceed $4,000 to a STABLE account in a year, the remainder of your contributions are carried forward to subsequent years until your entire contribution has been fully deducted. In this way, the government incentivizes maximum STABLE contributions which, in turn, reduces the financial burden on government assistance programs. Furthermore, a beneficiary’s individual contributions may also be eligible for the federal Saver’s Credit. An Ohio estate planning attorney can fill you in on the details, use, and eligibility requirements of the federal Saver’s Credit.

STABLE account earnings are not subject to federal income tax provided they are spent on qualified disability expenses. Acceptable. i.e. qualified, expenses are quite more expansive than with 529 Plans, an expense is qualified if 1) the expense was incurred at a time when an individual was suffering from an eligible disability, or 2) the expense relates to the disability, or 3) the expense assists in the maintenance or improvement of health, independence, or quality of life for a disabled individual.

Qualified expenses are not just medical expenses, but also include education, vocational, and living expenditures. Some examples include:

Tuition, books, and educational supplies and materials

Rent, mortgage, property taxes, and utilities

Transportation, qualified vehicles, and moving expenses

Vocational training

Health insurance premiums, medical equipment, treatment, and personnel

Legal fees, financial management services, and funeral expenses

If STABLE funds are used for non-qualified purposes, the owner will have to pay income taxes on the distributions, plus an additional 10% penalty. Further, the non-qualified funds can be counted as an asset/income for eligibility for government assistance programs such as Medicaid and Social Security. If you’re thinking about taking significant distributions from STABLE plans, always consult your estate planning attorney. The last thing you want is to get a disabled family member kicked off government assistance and then have to go through the arduous process of reapplying.

There are five investment options to choose from for a STABLE account, however, a financial adviser is in the best position to pick the best option for a client. A STABLE account used in conjunction with a special needs trust is an effective and powerful investment tool for those with disabled children or family members. Further, federal regulations specifically provide for tax-free rollovers from 529 college savings plans to STABLE accounts. Most people chose to rollover because either college expenditures are no longer needed or a priority in light of a recent and significant health change for a loved one.

529 college saving accounts and STABLE plans can become an indispensable saving and investment vehicle in one’s estate plan. An experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney is in the best position to advise you of the pro’s and con’s of each. Maintaining eligibility for government assistance while maximum personal retention of money and assets is perhaps the most common concern for clients of elder law attorneys. Both of the above mentioned tools, in the right hands, can financially provide for necessary healthcare and save or earn a lot of money for family members.

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.

Baron Law Cleveland Ohio

I Have A 529 Plan, Am I Medicaid Eligible?

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 […]

Trust Administration Attorney

Common Reasons Why Family Trusts Are Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professional Rules Mandating Due Diligence

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

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

Deliberate Election of Trustee Experts

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

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

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

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

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

About the author: Mike E. Benjamin, Esq.

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

Disclaimer:

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