We help clients establish financial and health care plans that will speak for them when they cannot, including wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney. For our business owner clients, we help them plan for succession and ownership transition. We also assist families, heirs, or guardians in implementing estate plans and directives.
Wills and Trusts
We prepare wills for clients who do not have them, and assist clients in periodically reviewing their existing estate plans and in updating them as their families grow and their needs and desires change.
For many clients, it makes sense to include a trust as part of their estate plan. A trust can be a useful vehicle for the speedy, efficient, and private distribution of the property within their estates, particularly property that passes outside of probate, and it provides a layer of protection and supervision for inheritances going to young or immature children and grandchildren. For families with special needs children or dependents, a trust is often an essential part of the estate plan.
Powers of Attorney
We typically prepare financial powers of attorney (POAs) for our clients when we prepare their estate plans, and we can also assist with any specialized POA needs. An individual (known as a “principal”) can execute a financial POA to appoint an agent to act on behalf of the principal for personal, financial, and business matters. The POA allows the agent to act when the principal is away, and perhaps more importantly, when the principal is no longer able to handle his or her own affairs due to mental or physical incompetence.
If an individual has not appointed an agent using a POA, the probate court has the authority to appoint a guardian to handle the person’s finances and personal affairs, but in many instances, a POA can be used to avoid the time and expense that a guardianship would otherwise entail.
Advance Health Care Directives
We assist clients with advance directives through which they can appoint trusted persons to make health care decisions for them when they are incapacitated, and through which they can declare their end-of-life treatment decisions, using documents that often include a health care power of attorney and a living will.
As a person ages and begins losing capacity to handle financial and personal affairs, family members will get involved and look to establish a guardianship over their elderly relative. The need for a guardianship can also arise for children who have lost their parents, or for a relative who is physically healthy but not mentally capable of handling his or her own personal finances. Whether you are looking to establish yourself as a guardian for an elderly loved one or for a child with special needs reaching adulthood, we can help.
Automatic, Non-Probate Transfers
We can assist with property transfers that can occur outside of your will, avoiding the need for probate for that property, and speeding its transfer to your intended beneficiaries.
For example, Transfer-on-Death designations can allow real property in Ohio to avoid probate entanglements, and trust arrangements can accomplish the same thing in other states that do not permit that process.
Ohio law also allows naming Pay-on-Death beneficiaries for bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and investments, and individual owners may designate beneficiaries for their retirement accounts, too. The account owner controls all of those accounts while alive, and the owner may change or revoke beneficiary designations at any time using the bank’s or broker’s specified procedures and forms. A beneficiary has no right or interest in the property or the account until the owner dies, at which time the property or account will pass automatically to the beneficiary or beneficiaries, bypassing probate.
Estate and Trust Administration
Probate is a court-administered process through which property owned by someone who has died (the decedent) is transferred to the person’s heirs after all of the person’s debts and taxes have been paid. The Probate Court enters orders which give the executor or administrator the legal authority to handle the person’s remaining affairs and then to distribute the money and property that remains. It can be a complicated and sometimes expensive and prolonged process. Our firm can offer invaluable assistance in making probate of an estate move efficiently to its conclusion as rapidly as the circumstances will permit.
We help Executors and Trustees with the administrative tasks and the court and tax filings that their duties require, and assist them in transferring assets and titled property to the rightful heirs. Among other things, estate administrators’ duties regularly include:
- Managing and preserving the decedent’s property;
- Marshaling the assets of the estate, determining what the decedent owned and the accounts and investments the decedent held, and then taking control of them;
- Collecting debts;
- Determining the heirs and beneficiaries;
- Paying the decedent’s outstanding obligations, after confirming they are legitimate;
- Determining whether estate taxes are due, and then filing tax returns and paying them;
- Implementing the instructions in the will or trust; and
- Distributing the assets of the estate to the heirs.
Probate Litigation and Trust Disputes
We assist clients with disputes that arise in regard to the handling of a probate estate or a trust, including those involving allegations of trustee or fiduciary misconduct or mismanagement, litigating in probate court when necessary. We can also assist with will contest and undue influence actions.