What’s the Best Way to Give My Stuff Away When I Die?

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By Attorney Ted Brown

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 1.34.22 PMThere is no doubt about it: Americans have a lot of stuff. Surveys consistently show that of all the Americans that have a garage, the majority of them cannot fit a vehicle inside it due to the fact that it is dedicated exclusively to the storage of stuff. “Stuff” can be almost anything, from furniture, family heirlooms, collections, clothing, tools, valuables or all those things earmarked for that future garage sale.

The trouble is what happens to all that stuff when we die? Most of the conflicts that arises in the estates that I handle deal with that stuff. Heirs generally don't argue over the money or the land but they frequently argue over who gets the stuff.

Therefore, if you have stuff that is important to you, it is very important to address it as part of your estate planning. For example, if you have a trust you want to make sure that your personal property is properly assigned to that trust. You can then provided specific instructions about who gets what within the language of the trust itself.

Specificity is always a good rule of thumb. As much specific instruction that you can put in writing about who gets what, where that item is located and how to tell it apart from the other stuff can go a long way to smooth out any potential disputes. It is important that these instructions are written in a way that someone who doesn't know anything about these items can read and understand it. These instructions should be signed and dated by you at the bottom of the document.

If you do not have any specific wishes then it is important to provide a method by which disputes are to be settled. For example, items are to be sold and the proceeds divided if the heirs cannot agree. Or perhaps heirs can choose items by “drawing straws.” Use your imagination.

In most cases, when a resolution process is provided along with carefully written distribution instructions, it will usually be followed and can save the family years of conflict and heartbreak. Your stuff is an important part of your formal estate planning, particularly if you believe as we do that “it should be easier for those who are left behind”. Please be sure to find experienced elder law attorneys to help you with the process.


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The Centerburg Office

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Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 1.31.13 PMThe Centerburg office of Cooper, Adel & Associates is conveniently located in the geographical center of Ohio and serves counties throughout Central Ohio. Centerburg is also known as “The Heart of Ohio” and was originally a stagecoach stop. Later, Centerburg was a rural stop for the Toledo and Ohio Central (T&OC), the New York Central Railroad Eastern Branch and the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus (CA&C) Railroads. Every fall during the third week of September, Centerburg features a Old Time Farming Festival that draws folks from all over Ohio for dancing tractors, country singing, old-time demonstrations and a pie auction.

Cooper, Adel & Associates has been a proud business member of the Centerburg community for over 25 years. Whatever elder law needs you, a family member, or friend may have can be addressed by the staff of at our Centerburg office. If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, contact our office for your free consultation and, as we say, “Get Your Ducks in a Row”!

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The Accidental Beneficiary

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By Attorney Daniel Vu

Changing who will inherit your estate can be a lot trickier than you think. You might think that all that you need to do is change your Will. However, changing only your Will would be a costly mistake. The beneficiaries you intend to inherit your estate will lose out on any asset not governed by your Will. Any asset that has named beneficiaries avoids probate and is not governed by a Will. For example, your IRA avoids probate because you most likely have designated beneficiaries on each individual IRA policy. This is also the case with your life insurance policies and many other types of financial accounts. So if most of your assets will avoid probate, changing just your Will would effectively change very little of your estate distribution and it may cause you to accidentally leave something to someone you had no longer wanted to receive as much or anything at all.

If you want to make sure you are not creating an “accidental beneficiary”, you will want to coordinate the changes on your Will and each and every asset that has named beneficiaries. In many cases a Trust can make this easier. For example, if all of your assets are owned (“funded”) into a Trust or made payable to a Trust, then you can make a change with one simple amendment to the Trust. The beneficiaries on all assets owned by the Trust would automatically change. But beware, even if you have a Trust it does not mean that everything will be controlled by the Trust. For various legal or tax reason there may be a select few things that must be left out of the control of the Trust so you will still need to do your due diligence to make sure that all of your distributions by Will, Trust or otherwise are updated to reflect your latest wishes.

Of course it is not uncommon to see people will change their wishes on their Will or Trust but forget about changing their IRA or something else not in the Trust or probated by the Will. This is fine if that difference was intended! Otherwise it’s a costly mistake for your intended beneficiaries and a very lucky thing to happen to your now accidental beneficiaries!

What Should I Do If I Can’t Find Mom or Dad’s Original Will?

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By Mary Roberts

When a loved one passes away, one of the first things family members do is look for the Will of the deceased. The Probate Court requires the original Will, but if that document was created 20, 30, 40 or more years ago, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to find. So what do you do if you can’t find that original Will? Here are a few things to try:

  1. Call the Probate Court in the county in which your parents lived and check to see if they have filed it there for safe-keeping.

  2. Call any previous attorneys that have represented Mom and Dad. They may have retained it in their safe.

  3. If you have a signed copy of the Will, contact your attorney of choice and ask him or her to probate the signed copy. There is a process by which the Judge will admit a signed copy of a Will to probate. This is known in the court’s terms as a “Spoilated Will”. It is a fairly simple process where the witnesses are asked to verify that they did, in fact witness the signing of this Will. The attorney who prepared it can also verify it for the Court.

If you or a loved one needs help with estate planning, please contact Cooper, Adel & Associates at 1-800-798-5297 for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.


What Does Long Term Care Cost in My Area?

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By Kathy Cooper

I recently found a great link to the 2014 New York Life’s Cost of Long Term Care tool that will tell you the average cost for skilling nursing facilities, assisted living, home health aides and more. For instance, here are some comparisons of average rates for Ohio:

Type of Care


Cincinnati Area

Cleveland Area

Skilled Nursing Private Room – Annual Rate




Assisted Living Studio – Monthly Rate




Home Health Aide – Hourly Rate




Find out more here: LTC Costs

Unless you are independently wealthy (really wealthy!), it is pretty clear that you need a plan to pay for care when you need it.

Maybe you’re wondering though: Will I need it? According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 70% of Americans over 65 will need some type of long term service or support for an average of 3 years. (Kaiser Family Foundation Article re: JAMA Infographic)


How Americans Die

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Have you ever wondered how Americans die?  Back in the 1900‘s the average life expectancy was under 50 years of age. By 2010, the life expectancy increased to just under 80 years of age which made me start to wonder: What is causing Americans to die in this day and age?

An interactive graph on Bloomberg.com (http://www.bloomberg.com/dataview/2014-04-17/how-americans-die.html) depicts how some Americans die. One key point I found interesting is the mortality rate for people aged 25-44. From the early 1980’s to the mid 1990’s, AIDS was the main cause, which at its peak, killed more then 40,000 Americans a year. Slowing infection rates and better treatment eventually allowed many of those with the virus to survive into their 50s and 60s.

Another interesting statistic is that in general, most Americans are living longer and dying of natural causes. About one-third of all deaths are people 85 and older. The downside to living so long though is that it dramatically increases the odds of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s. The rise of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has had a big impact on health-care costs because these diseases kill their victims slowly thereby causing an increased drain. In fact, about 40 percent of the total increase in Medicare spending since 2011 can be attributed to greater spending on Alzheimer’s treatment.

Overall, the share of U.S. health-care spending going toward nursing and retirement homes has declined slightly since 2000 and has remained flat since 2006.

With Americans living longer, it makes me, a 33 year old, start to worry about the future and what’s going to happen when I reach retirement age. Will I have enough money to get me to the end of my life? Working at an estate planning and elder law firm has really opened my eyes. It’s never too late or too early to start planning for the future! If you’ve been putting off planning for your future, we would love to meet with you and create a custom plan to make sure you have your assets protected throughout your life and at your death.

Don’t Try DIY Estate Planning

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By: Chris Meyer

We live in a world today where we are encouraged to “do-it-yourself”. In some scenarios, doing something yourself can be a rewarding and cost-efficient experience. However, this is most certainly not the case with estate planning. With the ongoing advancements in technology, certain websites are seemingly making it easier and easier to create your own legal documents such as a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, and LLC. In theory, this sounds as though this would be a quick and easy way to complete your estate planning on your own. However, this is actually not the case. One main reason that do-it-yourself estate planning is usually not the best idea is that everybody’s situation is different. What might make sense for your family does not always make sense for someone else’s family. With a do-it-yourself Will or Trust, you are given a “one-size-fits-all” template and simply told to fill in the blanks. Estate planning is not that simple since everyone has a different amount of assets and different types of accounts, vehicles, property, etc. that compile their entire estate.


    Another main reason that do-it-yourself estate planning doesn’t work is that there is no type of recommendation as far as what will work best for you. In attempting to complete your estate planning on your own, self-help website fail to answer certain critical questions. These questions may include but are not limited to: How are your assets currently being held? Are you a veteran? What type of insurance do you have, if any? How should you decide who should be your Trustee, Executor, Power of Attorney, etc.? Would a Trust or a Will make more sense in your situation? What type of Trust should you have?


    By establishing your estate planning with Cooper, Adel & Associates you are ensuring that your estate plan will be handled with a sense of compassion and expertise that you simply cannot get through self-help estate planning venues. If you, or a loved one are interested in learning more about protecting assets for your children and other loved ones, please give us a call for a free one hour consultation with either Attorney Thom Cooper or Attorney Mitchell Adel at 1-800-798-5297.


Facts about the 4th of July

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By Attorney Ted Brown

As the firm’s dedicated history buff, I wanted to share a few quick historical facts about the Fourth of July that have been largely lost on our collective common knowledge. Just like real life, history is rarely the cut-and-dry retelling of names and dates that the history books like to depict.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress formally voted to declare independence from Great Britain. Two days later, on July 4th, the Delegates unanimously approved a final draft of the Declaration of Independence. However, the Declaration itself was not actually signed by the 56 delegates until August 2, 1776. July 4th was assigned as the actual date of the document by the printer who was tasked with distributing (hand-made) copies of the draft version to the public. Great Britain did not actually learn of the Declaration until months later.

Until recent years, Americans generally did not refer to July 4th as “Independence Day” even after the day was declared a national holiday in 1870. Even today, the holiday is most commonly known as “the Fourth”. This is likely based on the fact that our independence was far from certain on July 4, 1776. At the time, Great Britain remained one of the most powerful empires in the World with a vast military presence. The Delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence knew they were very well signing their death warrants and that a long and bitter struggle would be waged. The Revolutionary War that began in April 1775 did not end until April 11, 1783 which perhaps would be a much more fitting date to hold the title “Independence Day.”

From everyone here at Cooper and Adel, we wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Medicaid Estate Recovery- A threat to the family farm

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By: Jessica LoPiccolo

Here in Ohio, we see quite a few clients who have farms that have been in their family for many, many generations. Most of the time, the family wants to continue to pass the farm down to their children, grandchildren and on down the line. But many families don’t realize that there is a very serious threat to that dream. For instance, what happens if Grandma dies and then Grandpa gets sick and has to go into a nursing home? Once he has spent through his hard-earned savings, Grandpa will have to go on Medicaid in order to continue to pay the nursing home bill. The farm can be in his name for 13 months after being admitted to the nursing home. [Read more…]

Are Your Medicaid Benefits Going Up?

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By Attorney Virginia McCann

If you are receiving Medicaid benefits, keep in mind that your benefits for 2014 may have changed. As you are probably aware, even when you are eligible for Medicaid, you are still required to pay your gross income, or a portion thereof, toward your cost of care. This is known as your “patient liability”. A stipend, known as a “personal needs allowance” (PNA) is deducted from the patient liability for you to spend on your needs. As of January 1, 2014, Medicaid recipients residing in nursing homes saw a rise in their PNA from $40 to $45 while the PNA for those living in an assisted living facility stayed the same at $50. If you are living at home and receiving benefits through one of Medicaid’s waiver programs, you are entitled to keep $1,406. If your income does not meet or exceed $1,406 you have no patient liability at all.

For married individuals receiving Medicaid benefits, the maximum amount of assets their spouse (known as the community spouse) is entitled to keep has gone up to $117,240. For couples with fewer assets, the community spouse is now entitled to keep at least $23,448 worth of assets. This is based on what is called the “community resource allowance” (CSRA) and is dependent on the total amount of assets held jointly, either at the time a Medicaid application was filed or when the spouse receiving benefits first entered a care facility for 30 days or more.

Individuals still living at home while their spouse (the “community spouse”) is residing in a long term care facility may be entitled to keep a portion of their spouse’s income. In fact, community spouses can retain enough of the other spouse’s income that their own monthly income could be as high as $2898. The total amount of income a community spouse can retain is dependent on factors such as the community spouse’s income as well as the cost of mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities.

Seek help from an experienced elder law attorney to sort through the maze of Medicaid rules and regulations.

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