Everyone needs an estate planning conference to review how your assets can pass onto your loved ones with the least amount of expense in the event of your death. Proper planning is often directed at avoiding the probate process and can save your estate thousands of dollars.
Probate is the Court process by which estate assets are identified, estate debts paid, and the remainder of the estate distributed to beneficiaries according to the will or by operation of law. Probating property can be expensive and time consuming due to court costs, attorney fees and waiting periods. Property can be transferred much more quickly and inexpensively upon death if the property being transferred is classified as a “non probate” asset. Probate avoidance is discussed in our estate planning conferences.
Our goal is to help you ensure that your assets are handled as you would want them to be, and to accomplish this as efficiently as possible.
The basic estate planning tools include the following:
Wills. These are documents that people use to dispose of their probate property after their passing. Wills are freely changeable and revocable during the testator’s life. (A testator is a person who signs a will.).
Trusts. A trust refers to a legal arrangement whereby property is held and administered by one person or entity for the benefit of another or others. The person or entity is called the trustee. There are many different kinds of trusts that achieve different purposes. One purpose is to avoid the probate process and to keep information regarding one’s assets from becoming public. Some trusts can avoid taxes when the trustor (maker of the trust) passes on, while others can be structured so that funds of the trust are used only for specific purposes, i.e. the education or welfare of a child. Whether a trust is an appropriate estate planning tool for you depends on an in depth review of your particular circumstances.
Powers of Attorney (POAs). This is an instrument that authorizes another person to act as one’s agent or attorney in fact. The agent’s power may be either general or special, meaning that it may be broad and apply for all purposes or be limited to achieve a specific purpose.
A general, durable Power of Attorney will avoid the need for guardianship of a person who, after execution of the document, later becomes incompetent.
A Health Care Power of Attorney designates a person or persons (in order of priority) to make health care decisions, in the event that a person becomes unable to do so by reason of physical or mental condition.
Living Wills. A living will, also known as a medical directive, sets forth one’s direction regarding life support systems or other artificial means for prolonging life, in the event of a permanently unconscious or terminal condition.
HIPAA Release. This is a document that authorizes friends or family members to speak to doctors and obtain medical and treatment information relating to your care.
Guardianships. While there are many types of guardianships, this generally refers to an arrangement where one person (the guardian) agrees to, and is charged with, the care and control of another person (the ward) and /or another person’s property; this is done when the ward is in need of guardianship due to his physical or mental condition.
Contact our office to learn how to develop a comprehensive and cost effective estate plan.
PROBATE / ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
Probate refers to the process established by law to transfer the assets of a deceased person (the “decedent”) to his or her beneficiaries. This process provides for appointment of a person to administer the estate, which includes gathering assets, paying just debts or taxes (if any) and distributing the net assets according to the terms of the decedent’s Will. If there is no Will, Ohio law provides to whom the assets are to be distributed.
The existence of a valid will, executed with the assistance of an attorney, aids greatly in making administration of a decedent’s estate smooth and more cost effective. Often finalizing the affairs of a deceased person involves probating and trust administration or handling of assets that have been titled to avoid formal probate administration.
Where a person has transferred assets to a trust, legal assistance is generally required for trust administration upon that person’s death. Special rules apply that affect tax liability and the responsibility of the trustee based upon the terms of the trust.
Our firm has more than thirty years of collective legal experience assisting people in the administration of estates or trusts, and in finalizing the affairs of loved ones. When the time comes, we welcome the opportunity to help you or your family with this process.
Long-term nursing home care is extremely expensive, and can decimate a lifetime of savings in a very short time. Many people rely on Medicaid coverage to pay for their long-term nursing home care. Medicaid coverage, however, may be available only after your assets are severely depleted. But with careful planning, the rules provide a number of ways to preserve your assets so that you can still leave a legacy to care for and benefit the people you hold most dear. We look forward to the chance to meet with you to discuss planning options.
The Ohio Lemon Law was designed to provide relief to purchasers of new cars that prove to be trouble vehicles. There are four ways a new vehicle may qualify as a “lemon”. In general terms, your vehicle qualifies as a “lemon” if, within the first year or first 18,000 miles of ownership, a defect occurs that is substantial enough to affect the vehicle’s use, value or safety and:
- You are forced to repair the same problem three separate times, but the problem still exists or recurs; or
- Your vehicle is out-of-service for repair a total of 30 days or more; or
- You are forced to make repairs to different defects eight separate times; or
- The manufacturer or dealership fails to repair a defect that may cause serious injury or death.
If your car fits any one of these scenarios, you may be entitled to a full refund and other statutory damages from the manufacturer. While the Lemon Law applies generally to new vehicles, purchasers of used vehicles may be entitled to relief under warranty law or other consumer protection statutes. Each situation is different and requires careful review. Contact our office to learn more about how consumer law may apply and remedy your problem.
Fraud occurs whenever a car dealer misrepresents an important facts. There are numerous ways in which consumers can be deceived when purchasing an automobile. Common examples of fraud include lies about the history, condition, and characteristics of a vehicle. Fraud also occurs when a dealership misrepresents other important aspects of a car deal such as the terms of financing, or the terms and conditions of add-ons such as warranties, insurance policies, and other products or services.
Because car deals may include many sources of hidden profits for the dealerships, it can be very difficult for consumers to determine the true cost of any given car purchase. As a result experience in investigating car deals, we have become very familiar with the tricks of the trade and how to identify auto fraud — even when it has been concealed from the consumer.
If you believe you have been the victim of auto fraud, contact our office by Internet, phone, or in person to arrange a consultation.
10 ways to avoid being defrauded when you purchase a car
- Knowledge is Power. Do your homework by comparison shopping.
- In the case of a used car, learn as much as you can about the history of the car by requesting a complete warranty repair history, by requesting a car fax, and whenever possible, by contacting the prior owner.
- Be sure to ask the dealership whether the car was in an accident and if so, what parts of the vehicle were repaired.
- Shop around for the best credit rate. Dealerships have an economic incentive to offer the highest rate rather than the lowest rate available.
- Read all documents before signing. That includes the fine print.
- Request a copy of all documents relating to the transaction.
- Do not sign a binding arbitration clause. By doing so you may waive all of your rights to hold the dealership accountable in court for any wrong committed.
- Take along a friend. A second set of eyes can be helpful (and may provide corroboration of your story, if you later encounter legal problems).
- Be careful about the purchase of add-on products. These products are often over-priced and can be the source of exorbitant profits to the dealership.
- If purchasing a used car, have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic.