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Testamentary Trusts

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Dan A. Baron offers the following on Testamentary Trusts.

Testamentary trusts are a great way to plan and safeguard your assets for minor children.  In other uses testamentary trusts can be used for beneficiaries with addictions or disabilities.   Unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts are incorporated into your last will and testament and are funded only after the creator’s death.   The biggest reason people use testamentary trusts is because they are able to control their assets after they die.

For example, if Mom and Dad die in a car accident leaving behind two young children, they would not want their $500,000 estate being left in the hands of nine and ten-year old.    Instead, Mom and Dad create a last will and testament and incorporate language that appoints a guardian for the children and trustee of their testamentary trust.   The trust parameters outlined for the Trustee to follow often include broad language like “to provide for the health, education, and well-being of my children.”   The trustee controls the money and then distributes it to the children as they need it.  Most often, the remaining balance left in the trust is distributed to the children once they reach the age of 25.

It’s important to remember that unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate.  Instead, testamentary trusts are created after the probate process is complete.  Assets left from probate fund the trust and the trustee is then responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.  Once the assets are in trust, they are protected from creditors and litigation.  However, there is no asset protection for the creators before death.

To learn more about testamentary trusts and how they might be beneficial for your estate plan, contact Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can assist you.


The information contained in this article is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. This article is not meant to provide legal advice. If you wish to receive a legal opinion or tax advice on the matter(s) in this report please contact our office and we will speak with you directly. 


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Difference Between a Trustee and Executor Within a Testamentary Trust

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Dan A. Baron Explains the Difference Between an Executor and Trustee:

Estate planning can be complicated and sometimes difficult to bear when charged with the responsibility as executor or trustee of an estate. If you have minor children, then you probably have set up some form of testamentary trust coupled with your will and power of attorney. Within these estate planning documents, there are designated executors and trustees that have been carefully selected to administer your estate after you pass. It’s important to talk with your executor and trustee and let them know their responsibilities after your’re gone. Below is a quick summary of the difference between executor and trustee of a testamentary trust.

The Executor’s responsibility is to liquidate or otherwise gather all estate assets, pay any outstanding bills and then transfer assets from the name of the decedent to the beneficiaries named in the Will (most often the decedent’s children). They also make any necessary filings with the court and attend any court hearings. Most Executor’s elect to use an attorney to help them with this so the process runs smoothly. Once all assets are in the name of the beneficiary, the Executor’s job is done. The complexity of the estate will determine how long the Executor is needed.

In comparison, a Trustee receives the assets from the Executor and then, with court approval, invests the trust assets in savings account, investment accounts, or whatever they deem appropriate. Most importantly, the Trustee manages the funds and makes distributions to the trust beneficiary (usually children) when needed (i.e. to pay school tuition, living expenses, doctor bills, etc.). Most clients set a maturity age of 25. When the children reach the age of 25, the trustee distributes the balance of the trust funds and that particular child’s trust is terminated. The Trustee will be required every two years to make reports to the court as to the value of the trust. As you can imagine, the length of time the Trustee will be needed will depend upon the age of the children.

If you would like to learn more about the responsibilities and an executor and trustee, or have questions, contact our office at 216-276-4282. You will speak directly with an Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney who can help you set up a trust, will, power of attorney, medicaid planning, and more. If you would like to attend one of our FREE seminars, please visit this link.

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Springing and Durable Power of Attorney – What’s the Difference?

Springing and Durable Power of Attorney – What’s the Difference?

When planning for retirement and your estate plan, it’s important to understand how your power of attorney works.  Generally, there are two kinds: springing and durable power of attorney.  A springing power of attorney takes affect if you become incapacitated.  In comparison, a durable power of attorney becomes effective as soon as you sign the document, and continues to be effective if you are incapacitated.

Having control with a power of attorney is a big deal.  The person holding this power may have the ability to control your financial assets, medical decision, and more.  For example, a giving someone financial power of attorney powers gives them the right to make financial decisions on your behalf.  This person might trade stocks, cash in annuities, or transfer assets.  If this person has durable power of attorney, they can make these decisions even if you are not incapacitated.   State laws differ on the particulars of power of attorney, and some financial institutions may require their own versions.

With a springing power of attorney, it’s important to clarify exactly what triggers someone taking over your abilities to make decisions.  Typically, it’s when the principal becomes disabled or mentally incompetent.  However, it could be used in a variety of situations.  For example, someone in the military might create a springing power of attorney form to be prepared for the possibility of being deployed overseas or disabled, which would give a relative powers to handle financial affairs in these specific situations only.

Who determines when someone is mentally incompetent or incapacitated?  This question varies state to state.  However, in general there is usually a formal procedure that your attorney can create.  It’s smart to note in your legal document exactly what the principal considers “incapacitated” to mean.  Often times, people who create a power of attorney form include language that requires a doctor’s certification or mental incompetence or incapacitation.

For more information regarding power of attorney and other estate planning methods, contact Cleveland estate planning attorney Dan Baron at Baron Law LLC.  Baron Law is a Cleveland, Ohio area law firm practicing in estate planning, business, and family law.  Contact Dan Baron today for a free consultation at 216-573-3723.

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What is a Trust?

Cleveland, Ohio Trust Attorney

What is a trust?  What is the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?  Why might my estate plan include either one?

Simply put, a trust helps manage your assets and provides clarity for the future.  A trust is a tool that may be used to achieve your financial goals.  There are different types of trusts for specific situations, from special needs trusts for family members with disabilities to charitable trusts that allow charitable giving while maintaining income as needed.  Trusts also fall into the categories of revocable (or living) trusts and irrevocable trusts.

Differences between a revocable and irrevocable trust

  1. Changes or modifications

An irrevocable trust generally cannot be changed or modified under any circumstances, whereas a revocable trust can be modified or revoked at the discretion of the Grantor.  However, the Grantor may maintain a special power of appointment in an irrevocable trust giving him or her the freedom to modify the beneficiaries without changing the benefits.

  1. Property ownership and asset protection

Assets placed in an irrevocable trust no longer belong to the Grantor.  The trust has its own identity.  The Grantor may still use assets for his or her benefit as specified in the trust, but he or she does not own the assets (much like leasing). Creditors cannot claim assets from the Grantor in this case, as the Grantor does not own the assets.

In a revocable trust, the Grantor retains complete ownership of the property.

  1. Estate taxes

As seen above, in an irrevocable trust, the Grantor no longer owns the property.  Thus, it is not included in the value of property at the time of death.  A revocable trust does not change ownership, and thus the value of the property would be included at the time of death. However, keep in mind the unlimited marital exclusion.  Surviving spouses may effectively pass their estate, tax free, to their spouse.  In addition, the 2016 estate tax exclusion is $5.34 million.

  1. Trustees

With an irrevocable trust, the Trustee should be an independent person chosen by the Grantor.  The Trustee should not be a family member, as this could create conflict.  However, with a revocable trust, the Grantor most often serves as the Trustee, maintaining control over the assets in the trust.

  1. Income tax effects

With an irrevocable trust, the trust is its own entity and typically has its own tax identification number and is responsible to file a 1041.  For a revocable trust, the Grantor still owns the assets and files everything on their 1040.

As seen above, the main purpose of an irrevocable trust is to protect assets.  The main purpose of a revocable trust is to avoid probate, simplifying the transfer of assets.  Determining the reason for the trust will allow the Grantor to make an informed decision about what type of trust is best for his or her situation.

And as with all legal and financial planning, laws change, so a consultation with an attorney is advised before creating a trust or any estate plan.  For more information, or to speak with an expert, contact Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723 or email

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Creating a Business Succession Plan – Cross Purchase Agreements

Creating a Business Succession Plan – Cross Purchase Agreements

Whether you’re planning for retirement or tragedy, having a business succession plan is imperative for business owners.  Big business or small, planning for the financial stability of your partners and employees can mean the difference between business as usual and leaving your spouse bankrupt.   Moreover, understanding the value of your business can affect your decision to sell, retire, or leave a legacy.  Cleveland, Ohio estate and business planning attorney Dan Baron has the following remarks to help you secure your financial future.

One way to create a succession plan is through a “cross purchase agreement.” Two concepts stand at the root of all cross-purchase buy-sell agreements: protection and fairness. A surviving business owner wants to be protected from interference by outsiders when a co-owner dies. Concurrently, a business owner wants to assure fair treatment of his or her heirs in the event of death.

Step One – Choose a Successor

Unless you’re selling your business – where you would normally sell to the highest bidder – picking a successor isn’t easy.  Many factors determine whether a succession plan is necessary and sometimes it can be as easy as passing the business down through a family member.  When choosing a successor, there may be several partners or family members from which the owner will have to choose, each with various strengths and weaknesses to be weighed and evaluated.  In this case, lasting resentment by some or all of those not chosen may result, no matter what choice is ultimately made.  Outside of a family business, partners who do not need or want a successor may simply sell their portion of the business to their partners in a buy-sell agreement. Talk with a Cleveland, Ohio estate planning or business succession attorney to learn more.

Step Two – Evaluate the Value of the Business

As mentioned, your succession plan may be as simple as selling it off.  But no matter whom the intended successor may be business owners must establish a set dollar value for the business, or their share of it. This can be done via appraisal by a certified public accountant (CPA) or by an arbitrary agreement between all partners involved.  Tax attorneys and business succession attorneys may also assist in the business evaluation process.  Estate planning lawyers and accountants use various metrics for evaluation business including sales, stock value, liquidity, profits, reoccurring contracts, EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization), cash flow, and more.   In addition, your estate planning attorney may evaluate your business using a number of other methods including asset based or income based evaluations.  For corporations, where the portion of the company consists solely of shares of publicly traded stock, the valuation of the owner’s interest may be determined by the stock’s current market value.

Step Three – Cross Purchase Agreements

A cross-purchase agreement is a tool used by business owners to assure that “business as usual” continues if co-owner dies. Like an entity or stock redemption agreement, the cross-purchase buy-sell agreement stipulates that:

  • A deceased owner’s estate must sell the business interest to surviving owners, and
  • The surviving owners will buy that interest.

There are no exceptions—the estate must sell and the survivors must buy.

Creating a cross purchase agreement is commonly used a usually starts with creating a life insurance policy. Once a set dollar value has been determined for the business, life insurance is purchased on all partners in the business. Then, in the event that a partner passes on before ending his relationship with his partners, the death benefit proceeds will be used to buy out the deceased partner’s share of the business and distribute it equally among the remaining partners.

A cross purchase agreement is structured so that each partner buys and owns a policy on each of the other partners in the business.  Each partner functions as both owner and beneficiary on the same policy, with each other partner being the insured; therefore, when one partner dies, the face value of each policy on the deceased partner is paid out to the remaining partners, who will then use the policy proceeds to buy the deceased partner’s share of the business at a previously agreed-upon price.

Example: How a Cross-Purchase Agreement Works

Let’s say for example that there are three partners who each own equal shares of a business worth $3 million, so each partner\’s share is valued at $1 million.  The partners are getting older and want to ensure that the business is passed on smoothly in the event one of them dies. Thus, they enter into a cross-purchase agreement. The agreement requires that each partner take out a $500,000 policy on each of the other two partners. Now, if one of the partners dies, the other two partners will each be paid $500,000, which they must use to buy out the deceased partner\’s share of the business.

One limitation to be noted here is that, for a business with a large number of partners (five to 10 partners or more), it becomes impractical for each partner to maintain separate policies on each of the others. There can also be substantial inequity between partners in terms of underwriting and, as a result, the cost of each policy.

Cross purchase agreements are just one of many ways to ensure a business’s legacy.  For more information on estate planning or business succession, contact Cleveland, Ohio attorney Daniel A. Baron at Baron Law.  Contact a lawyer today by calling 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an Ohio attorney who can help you with all your estate planning needs.