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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.

What is the Difference Between a Trust and a Will in Estate Planning?

What is a Will?

A will is a basic document outlining your wishes for your estate. It identifies an executor of your estate and provides the opportunity to divide your assets among your beneficiaries. This tool allows you to control the future care for any minor children and division of your assets. Without a will, the laws of your state will determine how your assets are divided. Therefore, a will is the minimum estate plan you need to care for your family and your assets. However, the purpose of a will is to guide the probate court to act in accordance with your desired plan.

What are the limitations with a will?

Probate

A will does not avoid probate court, and the average time to administer a will through probate is 18 months, while the minimum is six months. The length of this process can place a burden on the family left behind, and it allows creditors to make claims on any debts you owe.

Cost

Probate requires a number of fees–on average 5-7% of the value of the estate.

Public Transaction

Anything that goes through probate is public information. This means that both your assets and the way you choose to divide them become public, able to be found online in detail.

What is a Trust?

A trust is another form of estate planning that allows you to divide your assets as you desire. While this is similar to a will, a trust allows greater control and bypasses the limitations of a will as seen above.

A trust avoids probate, thus freeing your assets and your family from the court system. As such, probate fees are also avoided, and your personal information (assets and beneficiaries) is kept private.

What are other benefits of a trust?

Taxes

Saving on taxes is one benefit of a trust. However, given current tax laws, this is not an advantage unless your estate’s value is over 10 million dollars. Note, though, that this exemption is subject to change, and tax benefits may become more valuable.

Asset Protection

This is the biggest reason people use trusts over wills. Trusts allow for greater protection of the estate in case of something unexpected such as a beneficiary who develops a credit issue, or the possibility of a divorce.


If you are realizing that estate planning is more important and less simple than you thought, Baron Law will walk you through every step to ensure that your family and your assets are protected. To learn more about the difference between a will and a trust, or to begin planning for your future, contact the estate planning attorneys at Baron Law today.

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

Daniel A Baron - Estate Planning Lawyer

What Is An Irrevocable Trust?

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

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

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

Why would there exist a need for an Irrevocable Trust?

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

There are three parties to a Trust:

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

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

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

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

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

 

Cleveland Ohio Business Attorney

If I Have A Dispute With My Employer Or My Employee, Do I Have To Go To Court?

Baron Law, LLC is your trusted law firm for business owners and entrepreneurs. Don’t wait until it’s too late to consult/hire a business attorney for your legal issues.

Litigation is an expensive and time-consuming process, but sometimes it a necessary one. Some disputes escalate too quickly, involve issues too complex, or concern such vast amounts of money or resources that resolution through the courts is the only realistic option. That said, most of us won’t be involved with extensive litigation regularly but even relatively simple matters, after lawyers and judges are involved, can balloon into runaway trains of expense and stress. That is why alternative dispute resolution options are becoming more popular both in business and personal transactions. Mediation and arbitration are ways to resolve disputes amicably but also save costs, save time, and save business relationships. Any business owner who uses lawsuits as the primary means to solve grievances will find profits quickly fall and business prospects dry up. A local Cleveland business attorney can tell you how install arbitration and/or mediation procedures into employment, business, and contractor agreements so if problems ever do arise, more options will be available to you to resolve the dispute.

I) Mediation

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a confidential and non-binding dispute resolution process often used as an alternative to lengthy and expensive lawsuits.

Per the Uniform Mediation Act Section 2(1), mediation is a process in which a mediator facilitates communication and negotiations between parties to assist them in reaching a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute.

Per O.R.C. § 2710.07, mediation is confidential and whatever transpires at mediations isn’t disclosed publicly. Further, statements made at mediation are not admissible as evidence. See Ohio Evidence Rule 408. Statements during mediation are not admissible evidence because public policy is better served if the parties can speak openly and honestly during mediation. Thousands of man hours and millions of dollars are saved by steering disputes out of the court system and resolving them through mediation.

At the conclusion of a successful mediation, mediation agreements are entered into by parties to further solidify and confirm confidentiality and set out the terms of the amicable resolution. Your business attorney can draft one up when the time comes.

Why to Mediate:

Ultimately, it is cheaper and faster to resolve a dispute with mediation than going to court. Further, mediation preserves personal and professional relationships. Litigation and legal complaints are the nuclear option which effectively destroys trust and relationships. Furthermore, you have greater control over the outcome of mediation, unlike litigation. With litigation, the trier of fact, either a judge or jury, decides the case.

With mediation, you have input over the final resolution of the matter, greater availability of creative solutions (non-monetary), can reduce legal expenses and loss of business opportunities and profits. Additionally, privacy is often a major benefit of mediation, legal decisions are publicly accessible and litigation involves more people naturally. Thus, more people means greater likelihood of embarrassing information getting out.

Further, mediation is designed to overcome barriers to communication such as difficult opposing party and difficult opposing counsel. It is much harder for these parties to be stubborn and unrealistic to a licensed mediator, such mediators won’t put up with any horseplay or unconscionable negotiation tactics and are highly motivated to seek and facilitate a quick resolution.

When is the best time to mediate?

At the outset/before a dispute – it may be more successful to “nip it in the bud” because it takes place before the knives of litigation come out, hurting feelings and entrenching conflicting positions.

After partial discovery – may be beneficial to mediate after some discovery because both parties have incurred attorney fees and discovery expenses and, at this point, both parties have a deeper understanding of the relative strength and weaknesses of both sides. Furthermore, the costs incurred so far puts in it perspective for both parties the cost of protracted fighting.

After full discovery, but before trial – at this point it is basically the last chance to mediate before a lengthy, and correspondingly expensive, courtroom battle occurs. Furthermore, this is the last chance for the parties to resolve the dispute themselves before it is handed over to a trier of fact, and who knows what they’ll do. Remember, OJ went to jail for robbery, not murder.

Who attends a mediation?

A person with authority to make binding decisions, for both parties, often a designated agent or attorney. Additionally, others with knowledge of dispute or who are instrumental for final decision, often this means spouses and/or business partners.

II). Arbitration

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a contractual agreement to submit disputes to a third-party neutral for a binding decision. See O.R.C. § 2711. Arbitration occupies the middle ground between mediation and full-blown lawsuit.

Why Arbitrate?

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution available when a final and binding resolution is needed as quickly and cheaply as possible. The decision of an arbitrator or an arbitration panel is binding and enforceable at law. Lawsuits may be used to enforce the decision if the losing party does not comply. In such a lawsuit, an arbitration decision can be very persuasive evidence to possess. Further, noncompliance to a binding arbitration decision often makes this party liable for the costs of enforcing the decision, that is they have to pay the attorney fees of the innocent party to sue them.

Arbitration is often more beneficial in the business context where the financial stakes are higher. Many businesses operate within the confines of a delicate web of supply and distribution where even a relatively minor and short-term disruption can cause significant damage to on-going operations. Further, in our current age of social media, public perception is more critical than ever before. Thus, embarrassing or unpopular information regarding how a company does business getting out can do more damage and cost more money than the underlying dispute.

Important to note, however, arbitration cannot used to settle disputes concerning ownership or real estate. See O.R.C. § 2711.01(B)(1). However, a local Cleveland area attorney can easily add arbitration provisions to trusts, and such trusts can be funded with real estate. As such, arbitration is available in a widely variety if contexts if an experienced Ohio attorney is used.

An Ohio business attorney is in the best position to advise on the most effective alternative dispute resolution process for you and your situation. We’ve all heard the stories of business owners or owners and customers suing one another over relatively minor sums of money, then at the end of the long lawsuit, the attorney fees dwarf the amount of money that was originally fought over by the parties. Smart and precise use of alternative dispute resolution procedures can save your business thousands of dollars not only for one business deal gone bad, but many times over during the life of your business.

For information on arbitration, mediation, or any other business law matter, contact the attorneys at Baron Law LLC. The author of this blog, Mike Benjamin, can be reached 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 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.