No one wants to pay taxes that could have been avoided. The guidance of a skilled estate planning attorney can be instrumental in the protection of personal and family assets. We can help you safeguard what you have worked hard to acquire by taking steps to limit your liability and minimize your tax exposure. We want to provide you with the necessary information in order to make informed decisions about your family's future. Below is a summary of these practice areas.
Asset protection is a strategy to preserve one’s assets for himself or herself and one’s beneficiaries. Numerous reasons exist to consider an asset protection such as an increased life expectancy and anticipated medical expenses, an increasingly litigious society, and a divorce rate of over fifty percent. Although one cannot fraudulently avoid one’s creditors, asset protection can protect oneself against unknown claims and creditors in the future. Until recently, use of a limited liability company was the most common asset protection tool. One powerful tool to now consider is the new Ohio Legacy Trust. Ohio now allows self-settled trusts which can provide income and principle to the settlor while protecting the assets against future claims. Those with great accumulated wealth, those with a sudden increase in wealth (inheritance, lottery, etc.) and those in occupations frequently subject to litigation should consider an asset protection strategy as part of one’s estate plan.
For those individuals in their late 50’s, there is a fifty percent chance of spending some time in a long-term care facility. For those in long-term care facilities, twenty percent will spend five years or more. The average yearly nursing home cost now approaches $100,000 per year. One can quickly go through one’s wealth should an individual and/or one’s spouse need long-term care. One needs to look at those issues before it is too late. Whether it is long-term care insurance, an irrevocable life-insurance trust or a systematic transfer of wealth, one needs to be aware of the Medicaid rules and available strategies. Failing to plan in advance or planning incorrectly in violation of Medicaid’s rules can result in an unnecessary depletion of wealth or possibly even Medicaid ineligibility. Planning correctly and planning in advance is the key.
Estate planning is one’s preparation for one’s advanced years, possible incapacity or incompetence, and ultimately death. It involves a plan to prepare for these events both legally and financially in order to minimize the stress and complications for oneself, one’s spouse and children or other loved ones. Basic estate planning involves the preparation of a Last Will and Testament and the appropriate powers of attorneys. Using beneficiary designations or trusts to avoid probate is also common. Preparation of the proper health care documents is a necessity. Beyond the basics, more advanced estate planning can reduce estate taxes and income taxes, facilitate the transfer of wealth to one’s heir and help preserve the wealth one has accumulated for one’s spouse and future generations.
Proper planning is critical if one owns a business, either alone or with an unrelated co-owner. What if one owner dies? The surviving owner probably does not want to carry on the business with the heirs of the deceased co-owner. Is a proper buy-sell agreement in place? Is a proper financial plan in place for the surviving owner to buy the interest from the deceased owner’s estate? Will an owner’s estate or children have to sell the business to pay the estate taxes? A proper succession plan can minimize estate taxes yet allow the owner to retain control of the business while transferring ownership over time to one’s successors. These issues and more need to be explored and addressed in order to ensure accomplishing one’s wishes and minimizing the family’s costs.
Elder law encompasses those issues we face as we grow older. As medical assistance improves and as we live longer, one needs to prepare for this stage of life. Proper planning will allow one to receive assistance with health care decisions or financial matters without court involvement, should one become incapacitated. Appropriate estate planning documents should eliminate the need for a guardianship should one be unable to manage his or her affairs. Proper planning will also allow one to maximize one’s wealth retention yet receive the long-term care one needs. Ensuring that one has properly planned for his or her needs and one’s spouse and having the proper legal documents to execute that plan will bring peace of mind during one’s golden years.
When one passes away, the overwhelming task of administering the decedent’s estate usually falls upon a family member. The responsibility may involve trust administration (where decedent’s assets pass under a trust) and/or probate administration. It is important in handling this responsibility that one follows the proper legal procedures in carrying out the fiduciary’s duties. These include satisfying the decedent’s creditors, liquidating or transferring assets properly, addressing any estate tax issues and insuring that the decedent’s wishes are carried out properly pursuant to his or her trust and/or will. A competent and compassionate estate planning and probate attorney is recommended to help walk you through the process and assist you in completing your duties.