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Does your office do “elder law” and do I need a “living trust?”

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2013 | Uncategorized

Yes, our office practices in the area of elder law. Our lawyers have a lot of experience drafting wills and estates, working with trusts, handling probate matters, doing powers of attorney, helping people with living wills, handling guardianships, etc. Generally, those kinds of things are lumped together in the term “elder law.” Our attorneys are engaged in the general practice of law, and our practice of law in our geographic area deals with elder law very frequently.
The question of whether people need a trust is one involving a lot of different considerations. For example, it is possible for married couples to save federal estate tax dollars, in cases where they have substantial assets, by using a living trust in many instances. But, for example, in 2013, an estate having less than $5,250,000 in countable assets is not subject to federal estate taxation in the first place. And, as far as estates in the state of Ohio go, for deaths after December 31, 2012, our Ohio estate tax has been sunsetted, and no Ohio estate tax is due. So, if your estate is, let us say $250,000, there really aren’t estate tax concerns for most people. If your estate is $8,000,000, however, you had better believe you have estate tax concerns. There are other reasons why trusts can be helpful. One of those is to “avoid probate.” However, “probate” is really not a dirty word. Probate involves a court procedure that is set up for purposes of insuring that a judge reviews transactions after someone dies, and in which accountings are required to make sure things are handled legally appropriately. So, if a person dies and does not have close relatives handy, or if a person dies and the close relatives are in serious disagreement, probate can be a very welcome answer to an otherwise problematic situation, because most things have to be reviewed by a judge and the accountings have to be approved in an orderly way. Avoiding probate can be helpful, however, in situations where, for example, one married partner dies and wants to leave everything to her spouse, there are no significant disagreements, etc. In those kinds of cases, it is often possible to avoid probate court involvement by engaging in thoughtful “transfer on death” planning. Many bank accounts can be set up in survivorship form, or as “payable on death” accounts, etc. If that is done, these accounts can often pass directly to the ultimate beneficiary with far less red tape (there is always a little bit of red tape, but sometimes it is no more daunting than just getting a copy of the first person’s death certificate, etc). It is also possible to enter into “transfer on death” affidavits in Ohio for purposes of easing the transfer requirements relating to real estate when one person dies and would like it to be more quickly “inherited” by the other. And, it is possible to set up probate-avoiding transfer provisions for things like motor vehicles, investment programs, etc. This depends on titling and other considerations, and your lawyer can help you wade through those things.
So, there is no one single correct answer for everybody about whether you need a trust. But, our office is available to discuss these matters with our clients, and we welcome the opportunity to do that.