Interesting Recent Decision Regarding Charitable Bequests Out of the Ohio Court of Appeals

Massillon Community Hospital was one of three charities named to share the remainder of Kathryn Seymour's Trust at her death. The Trustee sought a declaratory judgment on the distribution of the 40% share that was to pass to the hospital, which had since been sold to a for-profit entity and was now named Affinity Medical Center.

The probate court found the language in Seymour's Trust "clear and unambiguous" that she wanted the distributions to be made only to charitable organizations. Affinity was not an appropriate recipient, the Court said. The Court awarded the hospital's share to the two remaining organizations under the cy pres doctrine.

Affinity appealed, arguing that cy pres applies only where the Trust exhibits a general charitable intent, not where the Trustor "clearly restricted the bequest to a specific limited purpose." Seymour's Trust specifically provided the hospital's share was to pass to "successors or assigns," Affinity argued. The Court noted that the cy pres doctrine, as codified, modifies the requirement that the donor show a general charitable intent. A Trustor is presumed to have had a general charitable intent when a charitable purpose becomes impossible or impracticable. Paying the hospital's share to Affinity would contradict Seymour's "overt charitable desires," the Court said. Firstmerit Bank v. Akron General Medical Center, 2018 Ohio 2689.

If you have questions about making charitable bequests as part of your general estate plan, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly represent client throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Office Closure 2/11/19 and Possibly 2/12/1

Our office is closed and we’re working from home due to inclement weather today (February 11th) and possibly tomorrow (the 12th). Please feel free to email us or leave a voicemail at the office and we’ll get back to you right away.

Benefits and Limitations of Revocable Living Trusts

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably spent more time planning your next vacation than planning your estate. But without proper planning, much of what you worked for during your life could be distributed to unintended beneficiaries or lost to unnecessary complications.

A revocable living trust is a popular estate planning tool that lets you control how your property is handled during your life and after your death. It also helps avoid probate and transfers your property quickly and privately.

The trust agreement is a legal document that partially replaces a Will. You transfer assets, such as your house, bank accounts, or stocks, into the Trustee’s name. The Trustee, usually you or someone you have confidence in, manages the property for the benefit of you or your family. It’s called a "living trust" because it’s created while you are still alive. And since it’s revocable, you can change or cancel the trust at any time before your death.

Creating a trust is a personal decision based on your own unique situation. A living trust has many benefits, but it may not do everything you need.

BENEFITS OF A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST.

A properly executed living trust can take care of you if you become unable to care for yourself. This avoids the delay of a court-ordered guardianship. This feature highlights the importance of adequately funding your trust when it's set up. Be sure to name an alternate Trustee to manage the trust if you become unable to care for yourself.

Revocable living trusts avoid probate. Probate is the legal process that transfers property after a person’s death. By transferring legal title to the trust, the property is no longer part of your estate; it’s already been transferred.

There’s also typically no public record required, unlike with a Will. Be aware, if property is placed in the trust after your death, then there may appear in a public record.

If you want to leave assets to a child or someone who may have trouble managing money, a living trust gives you control over the manner and timing of payments. For example, you can leave money to your 12-year-old grand-daughter to pay for college or to help with a down-payment on her first house.

For most simple estates, a living trust has fewer legal formalities than a Will, making it easier to create and change.

If you own property in other states, a living trust will protect your heirs from needing to administer out-of-state probate procedures.

LIMITATIONS OF REVOCABLE LIVING TRUSTS.

Since you retain the right to use and enjoy the property, in the eyes of the IRS, it remains your taxable property. If you receive income from the trust, you must report the income on your tax return.

Revocable living trusts are expensive to set up and maintain.

You create a trust to keep control over the distribution of your property. Although some trusts can protect your assets from creditors, a revocable living trust cannot. Since this is a revocable trust, you can terminate it at will. So a creditor can force the termination to get the assets.

If you have questions about whether a revocable living trust is right for your family's circumstance, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

If you've been injured in an auto collision, we can help!

If you get in an auto collision, you may walk away from it with only minor pain or your injuries may be obvious. However, some serious issues requiring specialty care and therapy may only manifest in the days or weeks following the crash. For instance, you may suffer from back or shoulder pain that requires chiropractic care or physical therapy. It's to your benefit to take any collision seriously, and get completely checked out by a medical professional. If you don't seek adequate medical services, you leave yourself vulnerable to further pain and risk that the insurance companies will use it against you down the road. Your case may be weakened, and your compensation for damages may be less.

We all know the major things to do after a collision; take pictures, exchange insurance information, call the police and get a statement on the record, and so on. But documenting the crash only begins on the scene. To be reimbursed by your insurance company, you must carefully document your interactions with doctors, including any diagnosis or referrals for specialty care. To document who was at-fault, you'll need copies of the police report and witness accounts. We can help you track down all of this paperwork and organize it for the insurance company.

If you've been injured in an auto collision, we can help. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Hiring a Lawyer When You Start a New Business Venture

It's a question many people ask during startup of a business: When do they need a lawyer? Do they even need a lawyer? Can they start without one and save some money, then get one later if and when a problem arises? Unfortunately, there's not one easy answer to these questions.

Whether you need a lawyer to start your business depends in large part on what type of business you're starting. The simpler your business, the less you'll need a lawyer.

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business form. It doesn't require that you register your business with the state. No specific paperwork is required other than local business licenses, and even that can depend on the exact nature of your business and your area's unique requirements.

Partnerships and LLCs must register with the state. Documents must be prepared, such as a partnership agreement or an LLC operating agreement. You might be able to register online with your state or use an online service to register your business, but it might be a good idea to use a lawyer if your business is at all complicated.

C corporations and S corporations must register with the state as well. They must prepare bylaws and other documents, and they have a far more complicated ownership structure. You'll almost certainly need a lawyer to help you start any type of corporation, An S corporation starts as a C corporation then elects S corporation status with the IRS. If it sounds complicated, it is. You might need help.

The most common reasons for needing a lawyer are:

* Navigating the many forms and requirements of legal documents, like incorporation documents, that are involved.
* Assurance the startup is being done right.
* Enabling you to focus on other aspects of the business so you don't have to spend time learning the legal processes.
* Support with specific tasks like trademarking your name, reviewing lease documents, discussing potential legal structures, and preparing incorporation forms.
* Online legal form providers don't always do it right.
* Businesses aren't one-size-fits-all, so blanket legal documents don't always work.

If you're starting up a new business, either by yourself or with a partner or two, and you have legal questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Probate law is a unique and complex field. That's why it's imortant to work with a lawyer who's ready to handle probate cases.

The loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations you’ll ever face. Unfortunately, dealing with the distribution of your loved one’s assets--especially if he or she did not leave behind a Will--can add stress to an already emotional time. Probate administration is the legal process by which assets from a deceased person are distributed among beneficiaries, whether they left a Will or not.

Probate law is a unique and complex field. That’s why it’s important to work with a lawyer who’s ready to handle probate cases. Call us if you need help from a probate lawyer. With an in-depth understanding of the complexities and requirements involved in probate law, we offer the competent legal representation and advice you need while handling your case with the respect and compassion you deserve.

If you’re dealing with the distribution of a deceased loved one’s assets, we're here to help. Call 253.858.5434 today to schedule your consultation.

Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills are essential elements of an overall estate plan.

A Health Care Power of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians (often called a "Living Will") are legal documents that provide you with options for expressing medical care preferences and instructions, should you become mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions. Through a Directive to Physicians, you can state your medical care wishes while you're mentally able to do so, to avoid unwanted treatments and disputes between family members over your care. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to grant a trusted person, known as your agent, the authority to make medical and end-of-life care decisions on your behalf.

Health Care Powers of Attorney and Directives to Physicians are essential elements of an overall estate plan. If you have questions about how these documents can help you and your family, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

We believe reckless and negligent drivers need to be held accountable. And we believe that their victims deserve full and fair compensation for their injuries.

Car crashes happen way too often. In too many cases, these incidents are not actually “accidents.” They are the results of negligent, reckless acts by careless people. We believe these drivers need to be held accountable. We also believe that their victims deserve full and fair compensation for their injuries.

If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker have been injured in an auto collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation right away.

We know meeting with a lawyer is hard. We're here to help.

Look, we know it's hard meeting with a lawyer. It's inconvenient. It's time consuming and there will likely be several follow-ups. And you're going to have to talk about some personal, potentially embarrassing things. But don't worry, whatever you tell us is held in the strictest confidence, and we don't judge. We're here to help you, to represent you and your interests, and to advocate on your behalf. If you've got a legal issue and need someone on your side, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

We want to be your family's lawyers!

Life is complicated and can sometimes be difficult. Say you own a business, maybe by yourself or maybe with a partner or two. There are contracts, governance issues, leases, employment issues, etc. that are all part of owning a business. And say you want to have a succession plan in place so that your children and grandchildren can be involved and take over the business someday. But maybe you've got a kid who has special needs or might be dealing with some circumstance that makes leaving them substantial property or money inappropriate. And say you want to make charitable giving part of your family's legacy as part of your estate plan. And say you and your partner live together and aren't married, but you own property together. And maybe you both have kids from previous relationships and you want to make sure your partner is taken care of, while simultaneously taking care of your children. All of those legal issues are related. And we can help. We have been representing and advising individuals and families in these situations for over 22 years. We want to be your family's lawyers. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service.

Probate vs. Nonprobate Property

When planning your estate it is important to understand the difference between probate and nonprobate assets. Probate is the process through which a court determines how to distribute your property after you die. Some assets are distributed to heirs by the court (probate assets) and some assets bypass the court process and go directly to your beneficiaries (nonprobate assets).

The probate process includes filing a Will and appointing a Personal Representative, collecting assets, paying bills, filing taxes, distributing property to heirs, and filing a final account. This can be a costly and time-consuming process, which is why some people try to avoid probate by having only nonprobate assets.

Probate assets are any assets that are owned solely by the decedent. This can include the following:

* Real estate that is titled solely in the decedent's name or held as a tenant in common;
* Personal property, such as jewelry, furniture, and automobiles;
* Bank accounts that are solely in the decedent's name;
* An interest in a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company;
* Any life insurance policy or brokerage account that lists either the decedent or the estate as the beneficiary.

Nonprobate assets can include the following:

* Property that is held in joint tenancy or as tenants by the entirety;
* Bank or brokerage accounts held in joint tenancy or with payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries;
* Property held in a trust;
* Life insurance or brokerage accounts that list someone other than the decedent as the beneficiary;
* Retirement accounts.

When planning your estate, you need to take into account whether property is probate property or nonprobate property. Your Will does not control the distribution of nonprobate property. Check the ownership of your property and your accounts to make sure jointly owned property will be distributed the way you want it to. It is also important to review your beneficiary designations.

If you have questions about determining whether your property is being distributed the way that you want it to, contact us at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Updating Your Estate Plan When You Move to a New State

If you've recently moved to Washington or Idaho from another state, you may want to review your estate plan to make sure it complies with the law of your new state. If you've moved here from a place like California, Arizona, Nevada, or Florida, you'll be relieved to know that estate planning doesn't need to be as complicated as it was where you used to live. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year from the Law Offices of P. Stephen Aita!

Put "Prepare an Estate Plan" on Your List of New Year's Resolutions!

Time to start thinking about those New Year's resolutions. Put "prepare an estate plan" on your list. Protect yourself and your family, make life easier for your loved ones if something happens to you, and maintain some control over how you want your affairs handled in the event of your death or disability. It's just good planning!