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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.

power of attorney

Financial Power of Attorney | Baron Law | Cleveland, Ohio

Financial power attorney (POA) is a set of documents that you’re giving your agent the ability to act and make financial decisions on your behalf. They’re most commonly used in an elder law scenario. They can also be used in a crisis scenario, if you are overseas, a business owner, and you need to elect someone to make those decisions on your behalf.

Are There Different Types of Powers of Attorneys?

General and Limited:

A general power of attorney gives your agent the ability to govern any part of your estate plan. Whereas, a limited power of attorney is restricted from having control over certain aspects of your estate that you deem fit.

Springing and Current:

A springing power of attorney only allows your agent to act when a certain offense occurs. Whereas, a current power of attorney can act at any time. We recommend that clients have a current power of attorney because it can be difficult to really point out a point time when the springing power returning comes into effect.

How Do I Know if My Financial POA is Up-To-Date?

Financial power of attorney laws changed in 2012, so if you have not updated your power of attorney since then, you’ll want to get it updated as soon as possible.

In addition, you’ll want to look for hot powers in your financial power of attorney, which are:

  • Gifting Powers
  • Powers Over Beneficiary designations
  • Powers Over Retirement Accounts
  • Ability to Make Trusts
  • Safety Deposit Boxes

These are the hot powers, and if you don’t have those, then financial institutions may not warrant your financial power of attorney. It’s really important that you look for these in your document.


Estate planning can seem like a big hassle because they are so many levels which require close detail. If you want to make sure your financial POA is up-to-date and can really act on your behalf, contact us at Baron Law today.

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.

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.

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

Special Needs Self Settled Trusts

The Three Flavors of Special Needs Trusts: #3 Self-Settled Trusts

The federal “Special Needs Trust Fairness Act,” enacted in December of 2016, changed the law to allow individuals with special needs to create their own special needs trust. Ohio law, in response, has changed to coincide with this recent change. Currently, a mentally or physically disabled person may create a self-settled trust to hold their own assets and avoid them being counted for Medicaid or other public assistance program eligibility. Usually the need arises to make this type of trust when a person with special needs receives a legal settlement or inheritance while already eligible and receiving government assistance.

In a nutshell, “self-settled” special needs trusts are simply trusts established by the disabled beneficiary with the beneficiary’s own money and assets.  The devil, however, is in the details. Self-settled special needs trusts are, by regulatory requirements, only available to those persons who are 1) disabled and 2) are under 65 years of age. Further, the trust must be appropriately drafted to include language that mandates that the cost of Medicaid services actually paid on the individual’s behalf will be paid back to Ohio at the individual’s death. Thus, in an indirect way, the Department of Medicaid and other government program will get their money and be reimbursed, at the point of death, but the individual reliant on government assistance can still maintain eligibility. Therefore, both parties win. Note, however, the use and drafting of self-settled special needs trusts is nuanced. For example, with these trusts once a beneficiary reaches 65, the trust can no longer be funded with new assets or money. Yes, what is already in the trust will remain protected, but flexibility and control is lesser than with other types of special needs trusts. As such, always consult an experienced Cleveland area estate planning attorney when deciding which type of special needs trusts is appropriate for you and your family.

A self-settled special needs trusts are often referred to as a “Medicaid payback trust.” Both names refer to the same type of trust, however, the later name focuses on the primary characteristic, and requirement, of a self-settled special needs trust, in that any Medicaid resources or services received by the beneficiary will be paid back from the assets housed within the trust. A partial corollary is a Miller trust. A Miller trust houses income for those receiving nursing home care that would otherwise put them over the income thresholds for the Medicaid income cap. The income is kept in trust and used to pay for care, but relevant here, names the State of Ohio as a beneficiary under the trust. Thus, the State of Ohio can recover the total amount of Medicaid payments made to an individual after death.

Self-settled special needs trusts are different from Miller trusts in that they allow for a much greater breath of resources allowed to be placed in trust and does not set the State of Ohio as a direct beneficiary under the trust. Naming a person or entity as a trust beneficiary grants them certain rights and privileges which, in certain circumstances, can lead to headaches and issues for the special needs person and their families.

Often self-settled special needs trusts are estate planning instruments of last resort. Usually within the context of an unexpected windfall going to a person with special needs. Going the self-settled route also places administrative labor and costs of the trust on the special needs person. Further the requirements of specific drafting to be legally operative under Ohio law is usually something laypersons are ill-equipped to do themselves. As such, always consult an experienced Cleveland area estate planning attorney when deciding which type of special needs trust is good for you and your family. The stakes are too high to do things ill-informed.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Special Needs Trusts

The Three Flavors of Special Needs Trusts: #1 Third-Party Trusts

Estate Planning law firm Baron Law Cleveland offers the following part 1 of a three part series of explaining the difference trusts available for those who have loved ones with Special Needs.  Dan Baron of Baron Law can advise what is best trust for your situation as the trusts are as individual as your loved one.

According to recent statistics for the National Organization on Disability, nearly 1/5 of all Americans, almost 54 million, have a physical, sensory, or intellectual disability. Every one of those 54 million have parents, siblings, family members, and loved ones who want to ensure they are comfortable and provided for. As with many things with special needs persons, the solution for providing for them isn’t straightforward or simple. This is where special needs trusts often play a pivotal role in providing support and estate planning peace of mind.

Special Needs Trusts: A Primer

Special Needs Trusts, as their name suggests, are trusts. As trusts, they hold the common characteristics and features shared by all trusts. A trust, to put it simply, is a private agreement that allows a third party, a trustee, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. There are innumerable types of trusts, each with own its respective legal conventions and purposes. A critical aspect of trusts is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust creator’s taxable estate. Thus, when the owner of the trust creates the trust and properly funds it, the assets go from the owner’s taxable estate to the trust. Afterwards, when the owner dies, the assets are not in the owner’s estate and subject to probate.

The distinguishing aspect and purpose of special needs trusts, sometimes referred as supplemental needs trusts, is that resources placed within these trusts can be managed for the benefit of a person with special needs but still allow them to qualify for public benefits like supplemental security income and Medicaid. This allows grantors, those who create the trust, usually in this instance parents of someone with special needs, to provide much need stable and monetary support while still allowing often indispensable social assistance programs for their children, even long after the parents pass. Third-party trusts seek to supplement income from assistance programs not to replace it.

Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

In general, there are three types of special needs trusts: Third-party trusts, self-settled trusts, and pooled trusts. Of focus here is third-party special needs trusts. The name denotes the defining characteristic of this trust, that a third-party set up a trust and funded the trust. This is also its most critical aspect because the funds and/or assets in the trust never belonged to the beneficiary with special needs, the government is not entailed to reimbursement for Medicaid payments made to the beneficiary nor are these assets taken into account when calculatng either initial or continued eligibility for government assistance programs for the special needs person.

These trusts are usually set up as a part of a comprehensive estate plan that initially provides a place to house gifts given by family members during their life to someone with special needs and later to also house inheritance from these same family members when they pass. Third-party special needs trusts are often denoted as beneficiaries on life insurance polices or certain retirements accounts. Further, these trusts can also own real estate or investments in the name of the trust but for the ultimate benefit of the person with special needs.

Advantages of Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

A big advantage of third-party special needs trusts is that, while the grantor is living, funds in the trust usually generate income tax for the grantor, not for the special needs beneficiary. This shift in taxation is dependent on proper drafting which is why experienced counsel is always recommended with special needs trusts. This tax shift avoids the hassle and stress of having to file income tax returns for an otherwise non-taxable special needs beneficiary and also having to explain the income to the Social Security Administration or other interested government entity.

Additionally, because it a trust, ultimately what happens after the special needs beneficiary is controlled by the grantor, you. Thus, the grantor always retains control and upon the special needs beneficiary’s death, the assets in the trust pass according to the grantor’s express wishes, even longer after death, and usually to the grantor’s surviving family member or other charitable institutions. This means the special needs person is always provided for, and far-above those people solely dependent on government assistance, and the money, at the end, will continue to do good for either your family or the world at large.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future

Hot Powers

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

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

I. Durable Power of Attorney

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

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

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

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

II. “Hot Powers”

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

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

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

III. Should you give “hot powers”

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

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

 

Special Needs Trusts

Unique Needs, Unique Solution: Supplemental Services Trusts

As with most persons with special needs and disabilities, the name of the game is to pay it forward. Unplanned and unthought out self-sacrifice, however, are rarely the proper ways to go about anything. Unfortunately, those families with loved ones with particularly debilitating diseases or affiliations are often solely focused on the here and now in terms of providing care. When asked, was about in 10 years? Or what about when you pass or are too old or sick yourself to provide care, what then? Regularly, these questions, though critically important, are pushed aside because to answer them would require tough choices to be made. Often these families fall back on pithy and often callous responses.  Responses such as, “everything will be fine as long as my child dies before I do” or “my other, more typical children will shoulder the burden and take care of their special needs sibling.”

Special Needs Trusts in a Nutshell

Special Needs Trusts are private agreements that allows a third party, a trustee, usually the family, to manage the assets that are placed inside the trust for the benefit of trust beneficiaries, the special needs person. There are many types of trusts, each with own its unique legal conventions and uses. The critical aspect of trusts in this circumstance is that the assets housed within them usually aren’t counted as a part of the trust beneficiary’s taxable estate. Thus, the resources placed within these trusts can be managed for the benefit of a person with special needs but still allow them to qualify for public benefits like supplemental security income, Medicaid, and other local and state government benefits. This allows grantors, those who create the trust, to provide much need stable and monetary support while still allowing often indispensable social assistance programs for their children, even long after the parents pass. Critically, these trusts seek to supplement income from assistance programs not to replace it, which is important in the eyes of the government because if a family, and by extension a special needs person, can provide for themselves than they don’t need assistance programs.  This theory is echoed in the needs and health-based requirements of many, if not all, assistance programs. The rules and requirements for local, state, and federal government assistance programs can be confusing, contract a local Cleveland area estate planning attorney today to make sure you’re informed enough to make the right choices.

Supplemental Services Trusts

Per O.R.C. § 5122-22-01(D), trusts for supplemental services, denotes the primary requirements of these trusts which allow special needs persons to benefit from them while also receiving government benefits:

“(D) Supplemental services. (1) Supplemental services are expenditures, items or services which meet the following criteria:

(a) The services are in addition to services an individual with a disability is eligible to receive under programs authorized by federal or state law or regulations, and the services do not supplant services which would otherwise be available without the existence of the trust;

(b) The services are in addition to basic necessities for such items as essential food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care, and the services are in addition to other items provided pursuant to an ascertainable standard; and

(c) The services are paid for with funds distributed pursuant to a trust which meets the requirements of section 5815.28 of the Revised Code or with funds distributed from the supplemental services fund created in section 5119.51 of the Revised Code, and the services would not be available without payment from the trust or fund.

The two main takeaways from this passage is that 1) the trust services do not replace government benefits and 2) a supplemental services trusts is the only way a special needs person would get these additional benefits.

In nutshell, a supplemental services trust is for individuals who are eligible to be served by the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation, a county board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities, the Ohio Department of Health, or a board of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services. With this trust, trust beneficiaries must be vetted and approved by the State Department of Disabilities or the County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The trust estate, i.e. stuff placed in trust, as of 2015, cannot exceed $242,00o.  Further, Ohio law is strict that the trust assets are used only for supplemental services, those services not provided by government assistance programs. Additionally, another hardpoint with these trusts is that upon the death of the beneficiary, a portion of the remaining assets, which must be at least 50 percent of the remaining balance, must be returned to the state of Ohio to be used for the benefits of others who do not have such a trust. Thus, pay it forward, at least in this circumstance, is written in the rock of Ohio law.

So why use a Supplemental Services Trust?

Again, the best way to demonstrate the value of these trusts is to go into the Ohio code. Per Per O.R.C. § 5122-22-01 (D)(2):

Supplemental services…include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Reimbursement for attendance at or participation in recreational or cultural events;

(b) Travel and vacations;

(c) Participation in hobbies, sports or other activities;

(d) Items beyond necessary food and clothing (e.g., funds for dining out occasionally, for special foods periodically delivered, or for an article of clothing such as a coat which is extra but which is desirable because it is newer, more stylish, etc.);

(e) Cosmetic, extraordinary, experimental or elective medical or dental care, if not available through other third party sources;

(f) Visiting friends, companionship;

(g) Exercise equipment, or special medical equipment if not available through other third party sources;

(h) The cost differential between a shared room and a private room;

(i) Equipment such as telephones, cable television, televisions, radios and other sound equipment, and cameras for private use by the individual;

(j) Membership in clubs such as book clubs, health clubs, record clubs;

(k) Subscriptions to magazines and newspapers;

(l) Small, irregular amounts of personal spending money, including reasonable funds for the occasional purchase of gifts for family and friends, or for donations to charities or churches;

(m) Advocacy;

(n) Services of a representative payee or conservator if not available through other third party sources;

(o) Guardianship or other protective service listed in paragraph (C)(9) of this rule;

(p) Someone other than mental health community support staff members to visit the individual periodically and monitor the services he receives;

(q) Intervention or respite when the person is in crisis if not available through other third party sources;

(r) Vocational rehabilitation or habilitation, if not available through other third party sources;

(s) Reimbursement for attendance at or participation in meetings, conferences, seminars or training sessions;

(t) Reimbursement for the time and expense for a companion or attendant necessary to enable the individual to access or receive supplemental services including, but not limited to, travel and vacations and attendance at meetings, conferences, seminars, or training sessions;

(u) Items which medicaid and other governmental programs do not cover or have denied payment or reimbursement for, even if those items include basic necessities such as physical or mental health care or enhanced versions of basic care or equipment (e.g., wheelchair, communication devices), and items which are not included for payment by the per diem of the facility in which the beneficiary lives; and

(v) Other expenditures used to provide dignity, purpose, optimism and joy to the beneficiary of a supplemental services trust.

From the extensive list of available uses for trust assets for special needs persons, it is no surprise that those persons with those trusts live and much more comfortable and fulfilling life than those without. Additionally, these trusts shoulder the burden for parents and sibling for providing much need support and care while also acting as a tool for benefit preservation. There are many options available for those family members with special needs persons, talk to an experienced Ohio area estate planning attorney to find out the best options for your family.

Helping You and Your Loved Ones Plan for the Future