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Estate Planning Attorney

COVID-19 Funeral Reimbursement

Did you know that you can be reimbursed for the funeral expenses of a lost loved one that passed from COVID-19? COVID-19 has affected the lives of many Americans and their families, reimbursement of funeral costs is a little way to ease the grief of losing a loved one from this pandemic.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has started a program to reimburse those families that have lost someone due to the coronavirus. The application process starts April 12, 2021 and currently does not have an end date. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

• The death must have occurred in the United States, this includes U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia
• The death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19
• The applicant must be a United States citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020
• There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a United States citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien

Additionally, the following documentation should be gathered and kept for submission:
• An official death certificate – that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, U.S. Territories, or District of Columbia
• Funeral expenses documents – (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of the funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened
• Proof of funds received from other sources – specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources
If approved, you will receive your funeral assistance through a check by mail or direct deposit, depending on the option you choose when applying for assistance.

Unfortunately, there are some people who cannot apply for assistance if they fall under one of the following categories:
• A minor child cannot apply on behalf of an adult who is not a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified agent
• There are several categories of aliens that are lawfully present in the United States, but do not qualify for FEMA’s Individual and Households Program assistance, including this funeral assistance program. These include, but are not limited to:
o Temporary tourist visa holders
o Foreign students
o Temporary work visa holders
o Habitual residents such as citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Please keep in mind there is no online application, this is through the FEMA funeral assistance hotline 844-684-6333. Once your application has been submitted via phone, you will be provided an application number and will need to submit your supporting documents (death certificate, funeral expense receipts, etc.). The supporting documents can be submitted the following ways:
• Upload documents to your DisasterAssitance.gov account
• Fax Documents
• Mail Documents

If you were responsible for the funeral expenses of more than one person lost to coronavirus you may claim each funeral on your application. The limits for assistance are up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per application per state, territory, or District of Columbia.

This is a great program for families looking for assistance in the unexpected death of a loved one caused by COVID-19. For more information, please visit the link below. To schedule and appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys, contact Baron Law at 216-573-3723

Sources:
https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance#eligible

Trust Attorney Baron Law

Five Reasons Why Having a Family Trust is Better Than a Simple Will

When planning for your loved ones, one common misunderstanding is thinking that you have to be ultra-wealthy to need or benefit from a trust.  While a common misconception, a lack of knowledge in this area can be costly. Even if your estate is fairly small, you still want to avoid the high costs and inefficiency of probate, as well as providing asset protection for your children.  Family trust planning can protect your nest egg while also providing several other advantages over a simple will.

  1. Family Trusts Avoid Probate

Having a simple will is better than having no plan at all; however, a simple last will and testament does not avoid probate.  Probate is a court system designed to administer your will and pay creditors.  Unfortunately, the probate court can be costly and time consuming.  In fact, according to the AARP, the average estate will lose between 5-10 percent of assets when administered through probate. Also, the minimum time to administer a will in probate court is six months, but the average time in most counties is eleven months.

If properly created, a Family Trust can seamlessly transfer assets to your heirs while avoiding probate. There is not a minimum time of administration, and there are no probate fees.  Additionally, there are no court forms to fill out, and probate court has no involvement in the administration.

  1. Asset Protection

If you have minor children, then having a Family Trust becomes a must. A minor child cannot legally inherit your assets.  Even if it were possible, most parents would consider it unwise for their seventeen-year-old child to receive a large sum of money.  Family Trusts provide asset protection by holding assets in trust for your children’s benefit.  Even when your children become adults, the trust still provides asset protection against creditors, litigation, and divorce.  For example, if you passed away leaving a large sum to your forty-five-year-old child who has spending issues, a pending litigation, or a divorce in process, the trust would hold the assets until your child is in a better place in life.

In addition to concerns about children, another common asset protection measure, given divorce rates over fifty percent, occurs when individuals are in their second marriage.  In this scenario, there is nothing preventing the remaining spouse from disinheriting children from a prior marriage.  Consider this example: Husband and Wife are in their second marriage.  The wife has two kids from a prior marriage. The husband has no kids except for step-children of the current marriage.  The wife passes away and leaves everything to her husband, and the contingent beneficiary naming her two kids.  Five years later, the husband remarries and creates a new estate plan naming his new spouse as primary beneficiary of his estate, the contingent naming his two step-children. Then the husband dies. The new spouse inherits everything and the children are accidentally (or in this case intentionally) disinherited.

Famous Last Words, “I would never get remarried!” In reality, this is a very typical example of the need for some level of control and strategy. A Family Trust in this example would solve the wife’s concerns entirely. And if this were not a second marriage, a Family Trust might still make sense for couples wanting to keep the estate within the family and avoid remarriage issues.  Moreover, the Family Trust in all circumstances would provide asset protection for children as mentioned above.

  1. Privacy

In addition to probate being time-consuming and costly, it is also public information.  Today, anyone can troll the probate docket observing how much money is in your estate, who the beneficiaries are, and what step in this long process you are in. This may sound harmless, but public knowledge can lead to scams against your beneficiaries, as well as placing information that you wouldn’t want available in cyberspace.  A Family Trust is a private design where only you and those you want involved will have access to your financial information and bequests.

  1. Control

Family Trusts provide control even after you have passed.  A simple will distributes assets outright as opposed to over time.  Family Trusts allow you implement conditions and asset protection strategies years after you have passed.  For example, you can dictate in your trust that your children will receive payments in thirds after achieving the ages of 30, 35, and 40.  Perhaps you have no children and you are leaving your assets to a sibling. In that case you can dictate that assets will not be distributed if your sibling is in a nursing home or receiving Medicaid.  Without a Family Trust, the assets in this second example would all go to the nursing home and/or would kick your sibling off their federal benefits.

  1. Efficiency

Family trusts are efficient and cost effective.  Although a Family Trust may cost more than a simple will to create, the amount of money saved after you have passed is worth the effort. Additionally, Family Trusts can be administered in a fraction of the time compared to probate. Finally, a Family Trust can be easily administered while creating a legacy for your family.

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

For more information on Family Trusts or to schedule a free consultation, contact Dan A. Baron at Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723 or dan@baronlawcleveland.com

About the Author:  Dan A. Baron is the founding member of Baron Law LLC focusing his practice to the areas of estate planning, business law, and elder law.   Dan was recently voted an Ohio Super Lawyer Rising Star, an award nominated by other competing attorneys and one that only five percent or less achieve.   Mr. Baron graduated with honors from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.  He holds a business degree from The University of Akron, cum laude, and is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, West Shore Bar Association, Akron Bar Association, Business Networking Institute, and American Bar Association.  Dan is also a member of the estate planning section at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

Probate Attorney

Top Reasons Why You Should Avoid Probate

Whether it was a gathering for a joyous wedding or the passing of a loved one, we’ve all heard about Probate Court at some point or another. We are going to dive into what probate is and why you want to avoid it when it comes to your estate, if you have no plan.

First, what is probate? Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death. You’re probably wondering “OK, but what does that mean?” It means:

The court will determine your assets at the time of your death.

The court will determine the value of those assets.

The court will distribute the assets to those that are entitled to them by law.

Probate court, during the process will also appoint someone to supervise the administration of your estate.

Why would I want to avoid this process? The main reasons to avoid probate are the extensive timeline and astronomical expense that are both required for probate. The minimum amount of time that is required by probate court is 6 months, but in actuality this process takes 14 – 18 months on average. The reason for this extensive timeline is to give creditors a chance to make a claim on your estate, this in turn reduces the inheritance intended for your loved ones.

The probate process is very expensive. The average cost for probate court is between 5 – 10% of the estate’s total value. This means if your estate is valued at $500,000 you can expect an average cost of between $25,000 – $50,000.

The probate court appoints someone that they deem “suitable” to administer your estate, if you have no plan. This means that your wishes will not be heard and your assets, including your personal property and belongings will be distributed by the court to whom is legally entitled.

Lastly, probate court is public record. This means that all of your assets, your heirs, and your debts are available for anyone to see. Privacy is something that should be valued during this sensitive period of bereavement.

This costly and lengthy process can be avoided with a proper estate plan put in place. Your assets should be distributed according to your wishes, not to who is just legally entitled to them. Your heirs should have the ability to access the inheritance you intend on leaving them, and your loved ones deserve the privacy and time it takes to mourn your loss.

If you have not previously considered an estate plan or have questions about how to get started on planning, contact us at Baron Law today. You can go to our website for a free consultation to start planning for the future for yourself and your loved ones.

 Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For The Future

 

About the author: Kristy Gross

Kristy is a Legal Assistant at Baron Law LLC kristy@baronlawcleveland.com.

Divorce Estate Planning Steps

Important Post Divorce Planning Steps

Ending a marriage, whether though divorce or dissolution, isn’t a simple process. It’s not like flipping a switch, one day you’re married, another day you’re not. Whether a couple was together for a relatively short period of time or set down roots together for decades, spouses separating financially, physically, and emotionally is a labor-intensive journey. With all the paperwork and meeting with attorneys throughout the divorce, the last thing people want to do is sit down with an Ohio estate planning attorney and go over estate planning documents. Unfortunately, reviewing and updating estate planning documents is a non-negotiable part of martial separation. Regardless of whether you do anything or not, your estate planning documents will have a profound effect on you during some of the most critical, and vulnerable, moments of your life and in the lives of your family.

Apart from drafting a new last will and testament, powers of attorney, updating beneficiary designations, and considering trust use, what else should be updated post-separation? The following is a list of additional advice every experienced Cleveland domestic attorney would give their divorced or separated clients regarding their estate documents:

Review Your New Tax Reality

A big part of estate planning is minimizing taxes. Namely, estate, generation-skipping, and gift taxes. Since probate administration can easily eat up 5% to 8% of the value of a decedent’s estate, everyone is looking to save money. The good news, however, there are exemption limits. This is where the unified tax credit comes in. The unified tax credit is a certain amount of money and assets that can be given free of estate, generation-skipping, and gift taxes. Individuals get a set exemptible limit, but married couples can effectively utilize twice the amount than that of single individuals. Obviously, an estate plan formed on tax assumptions centered around accessible martial exemptions and deductions needs to be rethought post-divorce. The last thing you want is your surviving friends and family to deal with an out-of-date tax plan for your estate. The unified tax credit, however, is only the tip of the tax iceberg. Numerous federal, state, and local taxes work differently for married couples than they do for single individuals, make sure the middle of April isn’t full of nasty surprises because you assumed you’d still be taxed at a married rate.

Review Current Property Ownership

Often spouses are joint owners of property obtained during the lifetime of the marriage. Vehicles, boats, martial homes, and vacation residences all must be reviewed post-divorce to confirm who the listed owner or owners are.  What is said on paper matters in the legal world and a house owned jointly with a right of survivorship goes to the surviving owner, regardless of whether the divorce is finalized. Often in the whirlwind of divorce negotiations and arguments, simple things like updating a deed goes unnoticed. If there is a dispute, however, one of the first places a court and attorneys will look to determine who gets what is legal documentation. As such, make sure the ownership documents for your most significant assets reflect your life going forward.

Review and Update Guardianships 

If a spouse is nominated as a guardian for a minor or someone with special needs, divorce and martial separation does not revoke that appointment. If the time ever came when a guardianship is necessary, the existence of a pending or finalized divorce would be a factor a court would consider during an appointment hearing but it wouldn’t be determinative. Again, leaving it up to a court official to decide who cares for a child or someone with special needs is never preferable. That is why experienced Ohio divorce and estate planning attorneys will make sure you take a hard look at who will care for those who depend on you when you are no longer able. A simple designation in a basic estate planning document can make a whole lot of difference to your children and wards.

Review and Amend Existing Trusts

Given the utility of trusts, from tax savings, avoiding probate, ensuring eligibility for government programs, and plain old peace of mind, they are becoming more and more prevalent within families. Trusts, however, are only one piece of a comprehensive estate plan and when used within the context of a married family, are highly tailored to the issues, concerns, finances, and benefits of marriage. Thus, when divorce rears its ugly head any effected trust must be reevaluated for effectiveness and potential martial asset division. Often a pre-martial trust does not survive a divorce, too much regarding a trust was created on the assumption of marriage. As such, sit down and read your trust with your Ohio estate planning attorney and ask yourself if your trust is actually accomplishing what you want it to.

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

House in Trust with Mortgage

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

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

  • What is trust? 

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

  • When can a mortgage be called?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping You And Your Loved Ones Plan For the Future

Estate Planning Attorney Baron Law

D.I.Y. Estate Planning: Saving a Dollar Now, Lose a Thousand Later

D.I.Y. Estate Planning:  Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Youtube has granted an unprecedented amount of legal information to the public. Online forums, blogs, and television allow people to converse at any time and anywhere about pretty much anything. Nowadays ordinary people can undertake their own legal research, legal drafting, and, if necessary, personal representation.  Just because you can do something, however, doesn’t mean you should. Google searches and online videos are not a substitute for the advice and guidance of an experienced Ohio attorney and many people put themselves in a bad position after they convince themselves that an attorney is simply not necessary.

At the end of the day, do-it-yourself legal services is all about saving money and time. People don’t want to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on legal services and spend the time conversing and meeting with an attorney. Online legal materials, at least the cheap or free ones, are great at providing a false sense of security, that everything is straight-forward, do X and you’ll get Y.

Law firms hear the same problems and fix the same issues from self-representation every day. People who, after a quick google search, start drafting their own wills, LLCs, and contracts. People who put their faith in a disinterested corporation and a handful of document templates. Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer are not law firms and they do not represent you or your interests, they explicitly say so on their websites. They cannot review answers for legal sufficiency or check your information or drafting. An experienced Cleveland estate planning attorney, however, properly retained and with your best interests in mind will accomplish everything you expect, and often more.

Hired attorneys are under legal and professional obligations to do the best job possible. They don’t want to get sued for malpractice, they want you to pay your legal bill, and they want you to refer your friends and family. A particular client is concerned with a tree, while the attorney pays attention to the forest. A proper attorney will draft documents correctly with established legal conventions in mind, legalese isn’t something done for attorneys own benefit, it has a definitive and beneficial purpose. A lot of trouble is caused by D.I.Y. legal drafters and estate planners due to typos or the inclusion of legalese for legalese sake. Further, a knowledge of federal, state, and local law along with local procedure and jurisdictional customs is necessary to obtain a proper outcome with minimal cost and stress. At the end of the day, the legal system is made up of people, knowing who to talk to and when is a large reason why attorneys are retained.

We live in a brave new world, never before has so much legal information been so readily accessible to so many. In the same vein, never before has our lives been so complex and estate planning matches this. Attorneys do more than drafting and research, they advise you on the best ways to protect your family and assets in light of an ever-changing legal landscape and your own personal life and dreams. Often do-it-yourself legal services are simply not worth the risk and lull you into a false sense of security. Ultimately, you need your estate planning documents to do what you expect them to. As such, call of local Ohio estate planning attorney and make sure yours are done right.

Baron Law Estate Planning Attorney

Preventing Children From Blowing Through Their Inheritance

Blood is thicker than water and we get to pick our friends, not our families. There are a lot of pithy and whimsical sayings that have been passed down through the generations that attempt to explain and characterize the complex and often contradictory nature of family relations. When it comes to deciding who gets the money and stuff after a family member dies, often, tragically, the baser natures of our family members are on full display.

Trusts are an ubiquitous estate planning tool that a lot of people have heard about but not a lot of people know the details of how they work. Trusts afford privacy for trust assets, control over how, when, and if trust assets are distributed, and potential protection against creditors, litigants, divorce, and greedy family members. All these benefits associated with trusts sound great but how exactly is all this accomplished? Once again, consulting with an experienced Cleveland estate planning attorney is always the quickest and best way to get your estate planning questions answered.

  • What are spendthrift trusts/provisions?

A common concern for estate planners is, how do I prevent my descendants from wasting their inheritance? A quick look at any one of the innumerable stories of multi-million dollar lottery winners who end up broke and destitute a few years later illustrates how most who come into vast sums of money quickly tend to spend that money unwisely. Now, if you decide using a trust is right for you and your family, within the structure of your trust, you can write in terms that will lower the opportunities for named beneficiaries to squander their trust distributions. Though not %100 foolproof, spendthrift trusts and spendthrift provisions are very common tools for trust makers to use to protect their trust and protect trust beneficiaries from themselves.

In Ohio a spendthrift trust is a trust that imposes a restraint on the voluntary and involuntary transfer of the beneficiary’s interest in trust assets assigned to that particular beneficiary.

Under Ohio law, specifically the Ohio Trust Code, spendthrift provisions are terms within a trust which restrain the transfer of a trust beneficiary’s interest. Spendthrift provisions block both voluntary transfer of trust assets stemming from the beneficiary action and volition and involuntary transfer of trust assets, usually from creditors or assignees whose claims are usually traceable back to a named trust beneficiary.  See O.R.C. § 5801.01 (T).  As a general rule, a spendthrift provision is valid under the UTC only if it restrains both voluntary and involuntary transfer.

For illustration purposes, here is an example of a bare bones spendthrift provision. Note, an experienced estate planning attorney would not solely rely on the follow language to protect you.

“A. Spendthrift Limits. No interest in a trust under this instrument shall be subject to the beneficiary’s liabilities or creditor claims  or to assignment or anticipation.”

How do they work?

Looking at the legal definition for spendthrift trusts and spendthrift provisions, it may be difficult to understand how these operate and, consequently, how they may be beneficial. In a nut shell, if a trust is or has a spendthrift provision, in most circumstances, trust assets are not subject to enforcement of a judgment until it is distributed to the beneficiary. This means that a trust beneficiary cannot use trust property that is assigned to them as collateral for a loan or to pay off a civil judgment.

 Thus, spendthrifts can prevent creditors, litigants, or the beneficiaries themselves from reaching into the trust to take assets contrary to the terms of the trust. This “reaching in” usually stems from beneficiary misconduct. Note, however, in some circumstances, spendthrift can be circumvented. Namely, in the case of certain child support obligations and claims of the State of Ohio or the United States. Whether spendthrifts can be circumvented depends highly on the nature of the claim against the trust and the nature and language of the trust. An experienced Ohio estate planning attorney is in the best position to determine if and when a particular creditor can reach past a spendthrift and get at trust assets.

Why do I need them?

Put bluntly, no one likes having their money or property taken from them. Or in this instance, by creditors, litigants, or claimants of beneficiaries uncontemplated by the language of the trust. A primary reason for any grantor in making a trust is to ensure control of trust assets. So, if unknown third parties reach into a trust due to a beneficiary doing something unwise, it goes contrary to express wishes of the grantor and all the effort that went into making a trust.

Further, premature distributions of trust assets can have serious consequences for trust management. The “internal finances” of a trust are often based upon assumptions regarding the amount of money/assets within trust accounts and predetermined distribution times. So, if money/assets are taken early this can lead to premature exhaustion of trust funds which may affect the whether future trust distributions can occur at all, in that trustees can’t distribute what isn’t there. Further, premature distribution may leave trustees with insufficient assets to pay trust taxes or administrative costs. There is also the unfairness of premature distribution, why should beneficiaries who followed the terms of the trust get their distributions later or in a lesser amount than the beneficiary who has creditors, civil judgments, or owes back child support.

The importance of comprehensive and effective drafting a trust terms cannot be understated. Often it is what is left out of trust documents which end up hurting grantors and trust beneficiaries. Spendthrift trusts and spendthrift provisions can come in a variety of forms to match the needs and desires of a particular grantor. The utility of spendthrifts, however, can only be enjoyed by grantors if a competent Ohio estate planning attorney is used in the formulation and drafting of a trust. Never underestimate the importance of matching good legal counsel with comprehensive estate planning.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future.

Six Month Creditor Claim Blog Photo

Six-Month Creditor Claim Period

Payment of the decedent’s debts is one of the basic responsibilities of an estate fiduciary. Ohio law specifically provides that the fiduciary of an estate shall proceed with diligence to pay the debts of the decedent. The critical questions remain, however, of who to pay and when to pay them. Unless a fiduciary is confident that the estate will have more than enough assets to pay all of the debts of the decedent, it may actually be better not to pay any debts received until the expiration of the creditor’s claim period. Under Ohio law, legitimate creditors have six months to present their claims. When such period expires, only the majority of legitimate debts claims against the estate will remain because if specified claims are not brought timely, they are foreclosed as a matter of law. At this time it can be determined whether or not there are sufficient probate assets with which to pay the debts or if the estate is insolvent. Most people, however, are ignorant of this little wrinkle of Ohio probate law. As such, when a loved one or friend passes, always contact an experienced Ohio probate attorney.

All too often a gung-ho fiduciary starts paying estate debts without a comprehensive accounting of estate assets or complete list of debts and obligations. This results in payment of debts which may have fallen off after the creditor’s claim period or, more seriously, if Ohio statutes are not fully complied during estate administration or assets are prematurely distributed, potential personal liability for a fiduciary. This means that if a surviving spouse, heir, beneficiary, or legitimate creditor should have gotten something from the estate that a fiduciary mistakenly gave away, the fiduciary must personally pay them their share, whatever the amount or value of the asset. This looming threat of personal liability is a significant reason why must appointed fiduciaries seek the counsel of experienced Cleveland estate planning and probate attorneys.

It cannot be understated the significant windfall potential for an estate if the six-month creditor’s claim period is waited out. The difficulty, however, is convincing friends, heirs, and devisees to be patient. Easier said than done. Now, after the debts of the estate are settled and verified and the time has come to pay them, unless the decedent’s will provides otherwise and/or in the absence of sufficient cash or other liquid assets to satisfy the debts, payment is made from the proceeds of the sale of: 1) tangible personal property which has not been specifically devised, then 2) specifically devised tangible personal property, then 3) non-specifically devised real property, and finally 4) specifically devised real property.

Good Ohio legal counselors always advise their client to be wary. A common point, but often overlooked one, of avoiding probate via beneficiary designations or trust usage is privacy. If everything passes via will, anyone anywhere can look up the estate online and see what is going on. A little information in the wrong hands can do a lot of damage. For example, a recent client came into a piece of property of the east side of Cleveland. Naturally, the previous owner failed to property taxes for many years. Lo a behold a nice company called the client and offered to negotiate, settle, then pay off the back taxes, for a nominal fee of course. Client, being uninformed, agreed on the spot and gave out his credit card information. The estate had been closed for quite some time, way past the six month creditor claim period, and now the client has new problems to deal with. All this could have been avoided with a quick 30-second phone call with their Cleveland estate planning attorney, don’t make the same mistake they did.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

LTC Medicaid Rejected

My LTC Policy Was Rejected By Medicaid, What Now?

Common scenario for Cleveland estate planning attorneys. Estate planning client comes in distraught. They did the smart and sensible thing, they purchased a long-term care insurance policy years ago to help cover the cost of later-in-life medical costs. They recently applied for Medicaid thinking their LTC policy wouldn’t be counted for calculating their Medicaid eligibility. Unfortunately for them, they received rejection letter from the Ohio Department of Medicaid saying they didn’t meet the asset requirements. Now, the Medicaid benefits, that they were counting on and always thought were readily available no longer are. Now, their estate plan is seriously threatened, and they are scrambling to make sense of the situation and found out what went wrong.

As the old saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The relationship between long-term care insurance polices and Medicaid eligibility is not a simple one. As with anything involving government bureaucracy, what you don’t know can hurt you and an experienced guide is worth his weight in gold. Two lessons often taken to heart far too late to avoid tough decisions and missed opportunities.  So, what happened to the person above? The best way to illustrate what happened is to answer the two most common questions anyone in that situation would ask.

Why did my LTC policy get rejected from Medicaid?

Only certain long-term care policies that comply with the guidelines set by the Ohio Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership program count as qualified policies and therefore aren’t countable Medicaid resources. So, what polices are “qualified?”

Per the Ohio Department of Insurance, for a LTC policy to qualify, insurance companies’ policies must meet several requirements, including:

  • The policy must have been issued after Sept. 10, 2007
  • The insured must be a resident of Ohio when coverage first becomes effective
  • The policy must be a federally tax-qualified plan based on the Internal Revenue Service Code (qualified plans can lower federal taxes, but they have benefit triggers that are less flexible than those required by nonqualified plans)
  • The policy must meet strict consumer protection standards (standard fee-look period, coverage outlines, mandatory informational disclosures, etc.)
  • The policy must include certain protection against inflation (the most common inflation protection automatically increases benefits each year by 5%)

So, if you have a long-term care policy, but don’t know, or worse hope without knowing, if it is a qualified policy, you’re likely in for a rude awaking when you apply for Medicaid.

What do I do now that my LTC policy was rejected by Medicaid?

Before any definitive answer or plan can be formulated, certain information about a Medicaid applicant must be answered definitively. At the very least, the information and/or documents needed are:

  1. LTC policy documents – should be overt on whether it was sold/defined as a qualified LTC policy.
  2. Rejection notice from the department of Medicaid – reasons for reject and any explanation regarding why the submitted policy was rejected.
  3. How does the applicant know their LTC policy is a qualified one?
  4. Contacting the insurance carrier to find out the exact details of the LTC policy in dispute.
  5. Where and how did an applicant purchase the LTC policy.
  6. Did the applicant receive the required CSPA complaint disclosures and documents (if was sold non-qualified policy but received CSPA docs could an indication of potential fraud).
  7. The realities of applicant’s current financial situation and health needs.

This last point is really the starting point and is exactly why you retain the services of experienced estate planning attorneys. Every estate planning attorney starts with the same questions, what do you need, what do you have, and prove it. No intelligent planning or decisions can be made until you know exactly where you stand. Further, in this context, the realities of where you stand are even more important because now your options are limited and you are, in a way, at the mercy of the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

If you have been rejected by Medicaid you are essentially in the realm of Medicaid crisis planning, where important questions must be asked, and tough decisions must be made. If someone is applying for Medicaid, the need is now and a solution must be found. One such critical consideration is the current need for care and the potential penalty period. To illustrate, let’s say a rejected applicant has a $400,000 non-qualified LTC policy. As of right now, with current Medicaid penalty divisor of $6,570, 400K/6,570 = approximately 61 months of Medicaid ineligibility, a little more than 5 years.

With this five-year Medicaid ineligibility period on the horizon, options are limited. Namely you can either appeal the rejection or resort to Medicaid spenddown. Medicaid spenddown is a beast all its own, is never something anyone wants to do, and largely depends on how ineligible for Medicaid you are, based on your current income and assets. For most, however, the good news is this situation and Medicaid spenddown, if the proper Ohio estate planning attorneys are used, will never be a worry because they will have done things the right way and won’t be subject to any nasty surprises. Failure to surround yourself with the right advisors, regretfully, often leads to  uncomfortable discussions and decisions that will have to be made sooner rather than later.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Special Needs Trust #2 photo

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

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

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

Special Needs Trusts: Revisited

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

Pooled Special Needs Trusts

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

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

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

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

Unique Issues with Pooled Special Needs Trusts

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

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

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future