For many families, estate planning is only something that they tackle as they or their loved ones are nearing the end of their lives. While that’s entirely natural, it results in many people not learning about simple steps they can take to protect their interests in advance – many of which do not require an attorney. Easy Steps to Simplify Estate Management For good estate planning, there are a few primary objectives: 1. Keep as many assets out of probate court as possible, in order to cut down on time and expenses. 2. Make the process easy as possible for family members. 3. Minimize any potential tax ramifications and maximize access to government aid, particularly for long-term nursing care through Medicare. 4. Accomplish all these issues before there is any question of competency or senility that could be raised to complicate an administration. For many of these issues, a quick twenty minute appointment with an attorney can generate most of the documents you need to plan for end of life issues. Item #3 is an issue better suited to another article entirely, but briefly, many people don’t realize that if their estate plan isn’t set up over five years before they might need to use it, they could needlessly lose practically their entire estate to the Medicare program in order to pay for long-term care. That’s where an irrevocable trust may come in handy, even for relatively modest estates. Staying on top of these issues takes very little time or effort, but can save thousands upon thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, down the line. There are also numerous details that can be handled without attorney assistance at all, which is what we’ll focus on today, with two simple but critical suggestions. #1: Transfer on Death Designations Virtually every major asset – your home, your checking account, your retirement accounts, insurance policies, your car – can be automatically transferred on death if you set up the right documentation. These automatic transfers, sometimes called Payable on Death, skip probate entirely, saving a substantial amount of time and money. Checking accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies are usually very simple to set up, and require simply designating joint owners or beneficiaries. This is very commonly done. A simple form through the BMV can transfer ownership of your car without probate Very few people however are aware that they can also set this up for vehicles that they own, including watercraft and outboard motor vehicles. Before you plan your next trip to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, you can track down a “form BMC 3811” with the BMV, have the form notarized, and then return it to your local BMV. To complete the transfer with the BMV, any heirs will need to bring the original Ohio title for the vehicle, a certified copy of the death certificate, an application for Certificate of Title (form BMV 3774), an identification card, and payment for title fees. This is one of the most common items that people miss, and not infrequently requires either instructions or action from an attorney on how to address this issue. Another major item that is often missed is real estate. For married couples or sometimes for people buying property jointly, the most common type of deed used by most attorneys is a survivorship deed. This transfers the property automatically to their spouse, upon death. However, after the spouse’s death, or if you don’t have a survivorship deed, additional action may be necessary. Although there are a variety of strategies on how to handle this, one of the most common is a Transfer on Death Affidavit. Because these are put on record in the recorder’s office, they typically require an attorney’s assistance to do properly. When properly executed, they allow you to continue to own the property until your death, and to revoke the affidavit if you so choose. Upon death, they fast-track the process of conveying the property to your designated heir or assign. Ideally, with good planning, virtually all of an estate’s assets aside from personal property items can be dealt with in advance, greatly reducing the cost of work needed to be done to close an estate. Keeping organized records dramatically simplifies estate management for heirs #2: Keep Good Records, and Keep Them in the Right Place One of the most arduous and time-consuming aspects of administering an estate can be having to research what a person owned at the time of their death, and gaining access to all their accounts and records. However, if those documents are securely stored, and well-organized in a single place that your loved ones are aware of or can easily find, that can save an incredible amount of effort. The container you select should also be securely locked, and fire-proof. Ideally, these materials should be kept in clearly labeled folders or binders, for ease of use and updating as necessary. Your executor should be given access to a key or at a minimum, knowledge of where the key is stored. When dealing with the emotions and other difficulties that can come with losing a loved one, sometimes unexpectedly, the last thing that most families wish to take on is a weeks-long scavenger hunt for financial information. You should make a list of all the information that should be stored, that your executor may need to have access to. That list should be included in the lockbox as well. Some of the documents that may be relevant to include are: · Password preservation worksheet – Consider whether a password preservation worksheet and/or security answer worksheet is right for your situation. Your password-protected information may be very sensitive and financially valuable, so you should think carefully about which, if any, passwords you are comfortable recording in writing, even in a secured location. Should you choose to do so, we recommend that you never store or transmit this password information in any electronic format, due to the risk of identity theft. If you do choose to...Read More
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The Docket Our Legal Blog
CARES Act & Paycheck Protection On March 19, 2020, Congress introduced the CARES Act, a significant economic stimulus package program. One of the most critical aspects of this package was the highly publicized Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). While many members of the public are aware of the broad details of the PPP, local banks, accountants, and businesses of all kinds are struggling to understand the finer details of the program. Recent proposed regulations published by the U.S. Small Business Administration have begun to provide additional clarity. But first, the basics. For eligible small businesses and other organizations, the program makes forgivable loans available on an emergency basis. Business owners will need to apply for the loans to be forgiven and they will functionally operate as a combination of a grant and/or a loan. However, if a business is not careful to master the details of these SBA regulations, they may instead be required to repay a significant portion of the loans. Up to $349 billion dollars in aid is available to applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. Contradictory information has been repeatedly provided regarding the interest rates of the loans, however, the latest proposal from the SBA sets the interest rate at 1%. The loans will mature within two years, and payments will begin within six months. Applications must be received prior to June 30, 2020, and a natural person is eligible to receive funds under only a single PPP loan, no matter how many businesses they operate. It is recommended that borrowers carefully review the formulas and instructions for the calculation of maximum loan amounts. Many businesses will find that they may not have applied for the maximum amount of funds that they are eligible for, in their original applications for aid. Others may find that they have elected to apply during a look-back period with payroll costs that may significantly reduce their eligibility for loan forgiveness. Borrowers may wish to consult their lenders and/or accounting professionals regarding whether it is prudent or possible to revise their applications without losing their position in the application queue, and/or without losing access to the funds entirely due to the intense competition for relief, and the limited funds available. Many banks have already expended all fees allocated to them under the program, while others have yet to begin processing applications. Who is Eligible? The most relevant eligible categories are U.S. businesses with 500 employees or less, non-profit organizations with 500 employees or less and 501(c)(3) status (which includes many churches), veterans organizations under 501(c)(19), independent contractors, certain self-employed individuals, and sole proprietorships. Certain other businesses and organizations may also be covered. You must also have been in operation as of February 15, 2020. CARES and SBA regulations also require businesses to meet the definition of a small business concern, under 15 U.S.C. 632. This includes criterion such as being independently owned and operated, and not dominant in its field of operation. Other criterion under Section 121.103 of Title 13, C.F.R, have been waived, which may allow greater loan access to businesses operating under a franchise model, and other similar arrangements. Certain categories are specifically excluded. These include household employers (individuals who employ nannies or housekeepers), businesses that engaged in any activity deemed illegal under federal, state, or local law (e.g. marijuana dispensary), an owner with 20 percent or more of the equity ownership who has been convicted of a felony within the past five years, or is incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or subject to an indictment, arraignment, or criminal charges. What is the Maximum Loan Amount? The maximum amount that can be received is the lesser of $10 million dollars, or a payroll calculation formula, designed to provide roughly 2.5 times the amount of average monthly payroll. For example, if a business has average monthly payroll of $100,000 per month, it could receive $250,000 in proceeds ($100,000 x 2.5). Ready for some math? Several methods of calculating payroll can be used. The payroll calculation formula recommended by the proposed SBA regulations as of the present date, is to aggregate all payroll costs over the last 12 months for employees who reside in the United States. Compensation paid at a rate that exceeds $100,000 a year, should be excluded. This payroll amount over the past twelve months should be divided by twelve. Then, multiply by 2.5. However, other payroll calculation methods may be more advantageous, depending on the nature of your business and its payroll history. While the instructions on the SBA application form recommend that payroll costs be calculated based upon the average monthly payroll for calendar year 2019, the recent proposed SBA regulations instead suggest using the last twelve months of payroll. The CARES Act itself suggests that the applicant use “payroll costs incurred during the 1-year period before the date on which the loan is made…”, which gave rise to these rival interpretations. These different methodologies could easily result in substantive differences. As of the time of this writing, this ambiguity may not have yet been fully resolved. The proposed SBA regulations describe their recommended 12-month look back period as “one of the methodologies contained in the act” that can be used to calculated payroll costs. For seasonal businesses, applicants may choose to instead use monthly payroll for the time period between February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019. For new businesses, payroll may be calculated using the time period from January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020. If any Economic Injury Disaster Loans were received, those amounts should be subtracted from the loan amount. The implementation of the CARES Act has been rapidly expedited due to the economic emergency, and as a result has received some criticism from the banking and accounting industries for being disorganized, or providing a lack of clarity in certain areas. Additional clarifications and refinements are anticipated, and should be closely monitored. The Treasury Department’s FAQ on PPP indicates that the U.S. government will not challenge lender PPP actions that conform to the guidance...Read More