Congratulations to Lauren Cooper!

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Cooper, Adel & Associates would like to congratulate all the July 2014 Ohio State Bar applicants who received a passing score. A very special congratulations to our own Lauren Cooper, who has worked for the firm for the past five years.

Lauren Cooper after passing the Ohio State Bar

Estate Planning for the Modern Farming Family

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By: Senior Attorney Dan Vu

White barn with Ohio logoI have always found that farming families are more aware of the importance of proper estate planning than the general population. This is perhaps, because most farmers have a story or two of an estate plan that went terribly wrong. I am never surprised, because there are plenty of ways for an estate plan to fail, especially for farmers.

For farmers, the stakes are high and the goals are even higher. For example, most want the farm to stay in the family for their children who want to continue the farming tradition. The difficulty is somehow also providing for the children who don’t want to farm while burdening all of their children with as little tax and debt as possible. These are long-standing problems for farmers, and I am certain that the fairly recent boom in farmland prices have only exacerbated the problems.

With these issues looming, most farmers attempt to resolve them earlier than most other families. I confirmed this when I was recently working in our booth at the Farm Science Review in London, Ohio. Many farmers I met already had a revocable living trust in place. This was good news since I believe that a revocable living trust is a necessity for a farming family. If properly created and utilized, it can resolve many of the farmer’s concerns. However, I was also glad to be there to explain how a typical revocable living trust cannot, on its own, solve all of the problems that face a modern farming family.

The most often overlooked but most costly modern problem is the devastating expense of long term care. Today an extended stay in a nursing home could literally cost the farmer his or her farm because, unfortunately, a revocable living trust cannot protect the farm against these long term care costs. In fact, the State routinely requires farms to be sold to pay for the cost of long term care… and … the State will place a lien on farms that can’t be sold.

Also often overlooked is the problem of the capital gains tax. This is not a new problem but with elimination of the Ohio Estate Tax and the increase in the Federal Estate Tax exemption, the modern farming family has a new opportunity to take advantage of the “step-up in basis” rules. A “step-up in basis” occurs at a farmer’s death and it allows the family to re-depreciate assets or sell them with little to no capital gains tax. Before the changes in the estate tax, the farming family would have to choose between paying the estate tax or receiving a favorable capital gains tax treatment. With these recent estate tax law changes, many farming families can now receive favorable capital gains tax treatment without a large estate tax.

It’s not often that the government lets you have your cake and eat it too. But you do not get the full use of the “step-up” rules with a typical revocable living trust. In fact, many of these older trusts were created before the estate tax law changes and most put the farming family in a worse tax position than they would have been with no trust at all.

So if you are a farmer, it is important that you take another look at your revocable living trust and your existing estate plan as a whole. Make sure it is built to face the modern problems of today’s farming families. I know you are thinking that you already took the time to do so years ago with some attorney who you can barely recall. But unfortunately things change, so make sure your plan changes with it. Swing by our booth at next year’s Farm Science Review or better yet, call us after this year’s harvest for a complimentary appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.

How Can You Reduce or Avoid High Trust Taxes?

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By Sandra K. Dennison, CPA

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal describes a strategy to avoid taxes when you put money into a trust and when you take it out. Here’s a summary of how it works:

Distributes net income to lower tax bracket beneficiary

In cases where Mom & Dad’s trust has a higher tax bracket than their beneficiary’s, there is an opportunity to save tax dollars. Trusts have fewer tax brackets and higher tax rates than individuals who have more tax brackets and lower tax rates. Consider that a trust with as little as $12,150 in assets pays the maximum tax rate – 43.4% while individuals can earn over $400,000 before they pay 43.4%. It seems clear that paying at the individual tax rate is better than paying the trust rate, in most cases.

You also have the option to look at which tax strategy (trust or individual) makes the most sense – if you get it done in the first 65 days of the year. This extended “decision time” is only available to trusts and beneficiaries.

Although appealing, distributions should not be made just for the sake of tax saving and certainly not without expert counsel. Distributing funds from a trust could produce negative consequences that far outweigh the tax savings. Respect for the purpose of the trust is more important.

Read more at: “How a Trust Can Cut Taxes” written by Arden Dale for the Wall Street Journal.

How a Trust Affects Your Ohio Homestead Exemption

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By Tricia Applegate

Do I still qualify for the Homestead Exemption if my home is in a Trust? The short answer is yes, with a few provisions. The State of Ohio states:
You are eligible for the homestead exemption if all of the following are true:

  • You created the trust to be effective during your lifetime (an inter vivos trust)
  • You provided the assets for the trust (you are the settlor).
  • The trust agreement contains a provision that says you have complete possession of the property.

Revocable and irrevocable trusts may qualify. Most of the other common forms of property ownership (such as survivorship deeds) also qualify for the exemption. Properties owned by corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and trusts, other than the trust described above, are not eligible for the homestead exemption because such properties are not owned by an individual.

If you have questions regarding your trust and the homestead exemption, please contact your estate or elder law attorney.


What is HIPAA?

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By: JM Megail Gaumer

HIPAA stands for “Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act”. The law was adopted in 1996 to, among many other complicated provisions, protect patients’ personal information (a.k.a. protected health information).

So what is considered “protected health information”? The Privacy Rule protects all individually identifiable health information held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associates, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral. The Privacy Rule calls this information protected health information (PHI).

“Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:

  • The individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition.

  • The provision of healthcare to the individual, or

  • The past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.

So what does it mean to you? If you are injured and cannot speak for yourself, your family may not be able to obtain information about your condition.

What can you do? It is imperative that you have healthcare directives (a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will) that include language specifically permitting your loved ones to require that the hospital release your protected health information to them. This will allow individuals you name to obtain information regarding your care and condition.

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I Don’t Want My Daughter’s Ex-Husband to Get Any of My Estate!

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By Attorney Ted Brown

One of the many benefits of a Living Trust is that it allows you a great deal of flexibility to customize distribution of your assets at your death to avoid undesirable and unintended consequences. One such consequence is an ex-daughter-in-law (or ex-son-in-law) ending up with your assets instead of your grandchildren or remaining family members.

A Living Trust can be specifically drafted to state that, should your daughter pre-decease you, her share will not go to her ex-husband. In addition, the Trust can be used to ensure that her share will be used for the benefit of her children. If those children are minors, the Trust can be drafted to ensure that the funds are managed for their benefit by someone you designate.

Call us today at 1-800-798-5297 to set up a free consultation to learn more about how a Living Trust can help you plan for the unexpected and make sure your assets end up in the hands of your loved ones.

The Hidden Costs of Estate Administration

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By Mary Roberts

Most people have no idea that serving as an executor or administrator of an estate is very time-consuming and burdensome. There are some “obvious costs” such as attorney fees, court filing fees and commissions for the executor but there are also some not-so-obvious expenses associated with administering and closing an estate.

Here are some of the hidden costs:

  1. Time. Closing an estate takes time. The compensation for being an executor may not be worth the time it takes for appointments with the attorney, collecting the assets and preparing an inventory, signing of documents, preparing an accounting and tying up loose ends.

  2. Will contests. If all beneficiaries sign off on the accounting, the process may be fairly simple but if a beneficiary contests, then thousands of dollars and many hours of work may be spent with the months dragging by while fighting the Will contest.

  3. Minors. If a beneficiary is a minor or considered incompetent, closing the estate can be more complicated.

  4. Overseas beneficiaries. If a beneficiary lives in another country, extra money and time may need to be spent on translations or notarizing documents.

  5. Property in other states. The executor may have to open an ancillary probate if the deceased has real estate in another state.

  6. Securing the property. Locks may need to be changed or a security system installed to protect the property.

  7. All estates are different. All estates have different assets, different beneficiaries and different sets of circumstances.

  8. Bond. It is necessary for a fiduciary (the person responsible for administering the estate) to post bond if there is no Will.

Fiduciary duties are extremely serious responsibilities that can be time-consuming and costly. At Cooper, Adel & Associates, we can assist you in reducing this burden for your loved ones when you pass. Please call us at 1-800-798-5297 for a FREE consultation.

Our Sidney Office

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By Dolly Wilkerson

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.04.13 AMThe Sidney office of Cooper, Adel and Associates is conveniently located approximately 1.5 miles from I-75 (Exit 94) at 2190 Wapakoneta Rd. This office mainly services clients from the surrounding counties of Shelby, Auglaize, Allen, Champaign, Darke, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Putnam, and VanWert. We moved to our beautiful new office in the spring of 2013 from our former location in downtown Sidney. Our new office has a spacious lobby area, ample parking and is handicap accessible.

Mitch Adel, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Managing Partner, conducts free seminars in the above-mentioned counties and is available to meet clients at the Sidney office by appointment. If perhaps you schedule your appointment around lunch time, you would enjoy visiting one of Sidney’s famous restaurants, “The Spot”, located on Ohio Street in downtown Sidney ( Dan Vu, Senior Attorney at Cooper, Adel & Assoc. requests one of their apple pies every year for his birthday. Keith Stevens, another attorney with our firm orders their old fashion crème pies every Thanksgiving for his wife. Or perhaps, if you are meeting with Julian Guilfoyle, Financial Consultant who speaks with Mitch at his seminars and also sees clients in the Sidney office, you can ask him about the huge breakfast and hamburgers at another one of Sidney’s popular restaurants, “The Alcove”, located at 134 N. Main St.

If you are interested in learning more about our firm and the Sidney office, please give us a call at 800-798-5297. Mitch and his team of attorneys, whom all specialize in elder law can assist you through the process of “getting your ducks in a row.”

What is a Medallion Signature Guarantee?

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By Jon Stevenson

The Medallion Signature Guarantee is used to verify the identity of an owner when selling or transferring traded assets such as stocks or bonds.This reduces the risk of the company processing the transfer by sharing the liability with the institution that provided the guarantee stamp. It serves as protection for the owner by limiting the likelihood of an unauthorized transfer and the transfer company by reducing losses if a signature is forged.

The Medallion Signature Guarantee is not the same as a notary stamp and they cannot be used interchangeably. The Medallion Signature is provided by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions because they are able to take financial responsibility. Notary Publics are government officials that certify signatures for legal documents but do not take on financial responsibility.

It is also important to note that different companies are able to provide different amounts of coverage for the transfer. If you are planning on transferring or selling an asset that requires the Medallion Signature Guarantee you will want to make sure they can cover the full amount of the asset or your request may be rejected. For more information about surety limits:


What Is the Role of the Case Worker in my Medicaid Application?

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By Jess LoPiccolo

Your case worker is an employee of the county Department of Job and Family Services. Their job is to collect and enter the information needed to determine whether you are eligible for Medicaid benefits. Each county has their own case workers.

As part of my job as a case manager at Cooper, Adel & Associates, I try to make the job as easy as possible for your county case worker to help facilitate the process. I organize your information and give your case worker the big picture about you and your qualifications. This makes sure the case worker has the information they need to make a timely decision. And time is money in these cases!

If you or a loved one needs to apply for Medicaid, we’re hear to help. Please call us at 1-800-798-5297 for a free consultation.