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Dorothea J. Kingsbury Estate Planning & Probate Attorney

Cleveland Ohio Legal Blog

If you are you an art collector estate planning is important

Many Cleveland residents enjoy art and some people even collect art to display in their homes. Art collections can be valuable and also need to be protected in an estate plan.

When a person has amassed an art collection they need to understand how to protect it after they die. If plans are not in place, family members can wind up arguing over who receives what and can also lead to high estate taxes. Proper planning can ensure the art is transferred tax efficiently.

Special needs trusts for children

Many Cleveland area residents have a child with special needs. These children require special care and many require this care throughout their lives. Planning ahead for a child with special needs is important

A special needs person often requires many services that can be costly. There are government benefits in place to help these people. These programs, however, are needs-based, which means careful planning is important in order to have children qualify. There are many ways that parents are able to funnel money to their children without impacting their benefits. One common way is establishing a special needs trust. This trust is used in order to supplement the government assistance programs and help create a better quality of life for the child. It can be used for special trips, glasses and medical equipment, among other uses. The trust is controlled by a trustee who is not the child. The money cannot be given to the child directly, but must be used to improve their quality of life. The trust can be funded by parents, grandparents and other loved ones who understand that the child will need care the rest of their lives.

New Year's resolutions for estate planning

The time of year for New Year's resolutions has come. Many people are making resolutions for losing weight, eating better and saving more money. But, estate planning is not usually making anyone's resolution list, even though estate planning is important for nearly everyone in the Cleveland area.

One financial planning resolution a person should look into is creating a financial power of attorney. This document would appoint a person to make decisions about one's financial matters. A financial power of attorney can take effect immediately or if a person becomes incapacitated. Another resolution may be to create a health care power of attorney. This is a document which appoints a person to make health care decisions on behalf of someone if they are no longer able to make these decisions. If health care professionals believe a person is no longer able to make decisions for themselves, a health care power of attorney would need to step in. Creating a will is another good estate planning resolution. A will dictates who will receive a person's assets and who will be the personal representative of the estate. If a person already had estate planning documents in place, they should consider reviewing them and updating them as needed. Many family changes can affect estate planning documents.

Estate tax and gift tax changes under new tax cut bill

Recently, President Trump signed into law the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. This law makes some changes to the estate tax, which Cleveland residents may want to consider.

One major change to the estate tax is raising the "death tax" to $11.2 million for an individual and $22.4 million for a couple. This means that anyone who has estates less than those amounts will not need to pay federal estate tax. In addition, the lifetime gift tax exemption has increased to $11.2 million per donor.

Growing older as an elder orphan

If you are one of the 25 percent of Americans who are approaching 65, have no children, and are widowed or never married, you may have increasing concerns about your future. Some people refer to those in this situation as elder orphans. You may have enjoyed a certain amount of freedom in your lifetime, but you may also wonder who will care for you in your final years and tend to your estate after you pass.

While you may have developed close friendships over the years or have trusted acquaintances, there may arise some difficult decisions that a friend or acquaintance cannot make on your behalf without the proper legal authority. This is why you may wish to seek advice about some elements of estate planning that are especially important to elder orphans.

What happens to a person's debts after they pass away?

When a person passes away, their family is often left behind to deal with their estate. These family members need to make important decisions regarding the estate's assets and debts.

Generally, family members are not responsible for their loved one's debts unless they cosigned or were joint owners. Credit card debt generally dies with the person, unless someone cosigned or is a joint owner on the account. When there is not enough money in the decedent's estate to pay for the debt, the creditor is generally out of luck. As far as mortgages are concerned, if a spouse is named as a joint owner on the loan then they would be responsible for the mortgage debt. Life insurance benefits are distributed to the beneficiaries and do not need to be used to pay for debt.

Social media after a person dies

Most Cleveland area residents have some sort of social media profile. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are all social media platforms that a person may engage in. But, what happens to a person's social media presence after they die?

Those who are on social media have probably had an online friend who has died. Many times these accounts become a memorial to the deceased, allowing friends and family to share memories for years to come. But some people may want to plan for what happens to their social media accounts after they pass away. A digital inheritance plan is a good way to let family know what should happen to accounts. Digital assets should be listed and should be specified as to whether they should remain active or if the account should be deleted. A record should be kept with all digital subscriptions that are being used, including email accounts, social media accounts, music sharing apps, shopping sites, etc.

Revocable living trusts as an estate planning tool

Many Cleveland area residents understand the value that estate planning can bring. Knowing how a person's assets will be distributed upon their death can offer them peace of mind. A person can also feel like they are in control of their estate and can arrange things exactly as they feel fit.

A revocable living trust is one of the most popular estate planning tools. Most people want their estate to avoid probate upon their death and this is a good way to ensure that happens. Upon a person's death, their property is transferred quickly and quietly, without the general public knowing what is going on. Assets including property, bank accounts and investment accounts are transferred into a trust where they are managed by a trustee. A revocable living trust can be changed or canceled at anytime while the person is still alive.

Creating education trusts can help loved ones significantly

For people in Ohio who are in the process of considering how best to establish trusts for their loved ones, an issue that has become prominent in today's world could provide a guideline as to how to move forward. Since education costs are skyrocketing and people are being overwhelmed by unmanageable and impossible to pay student-loan payments, a greater number of people who are seeking a strategy for their trust are turning to an education trust. Knowing how to do this and if it is a good idea is essential to the estate plan.

Those who have the assets to do it can derive benefit if they transfer assets from their estate into a nontaxable entity to help their loved ones defray or outright pay education costs with the trust. With an education trust, a loved one can be helped with paying for a college education, graduate school a trade school or other educational endeavors. Since college debt is an increasing problem for a large faction of society and many are debating whether it is worth it at all, people who have the means and the desire can help loved ones get an education without needing to fear for their financial future.

Exploring the potential advantages of a power of attorney

You may find that certain circumstances in life can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict. However, even if you cannot foresee future events, you may be able to form a strategy that is in keeping with your wishes, which could prove exceedingly beneficial should the need ever arise.

While perhaps difficult to consider, there may come a point in life when you become incapable of making decisions for yourself, whether over time or due to a sudden medical emergency. During this period, having a power of attorney of your choosing to make the necessary decisions could prove exceedingly beneficial.

Good Advice. Real Solutions.

I am attorney Dorothea J. Kingsbury. I provide good advice and real solutions to challenging problems. I can help you choose and personalize estate planning instruments that meet your family's present and future needs. I can develop elder law strategies that ensure proper care for your loved ones. I can guide you through the probate/estate administration process when a family member has passed away. I can help make sure your interests are protected during your real estate transaction. I am here to make things easier.

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