Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to all of your most pressing questions regarding elder law, estate planning, and our services.
Can I call and receive general legal information?
We encourage you to call with your questions. We can usually point you in the right direction so you can get your questions answered.
Do I have to be wealthy to need a trust?
There is a common misconception that only the wealthy need a Trust. However, Trusts can be used for a variety of reasons. Trusts are used:
- To avoid probate. This can be an important issue regardless of the size of your estate.
- To hold assets for a minor child or a spendthrift child.
- To keep assets in the family instead of those assets inadvertently passing to the in-laws.
- Holding assets for a disabled child/beneficiary.
- Managing funds if you become incompetent.
- Reducing Ohio Estate Taxes.
Do I need a Power of Attorney?
Almost everyone needs a Power of Attorney (“POA”). A POA appoints someone to handle financial transactions for you if you cannot (for example, if you are out of town or if you become incompetent). The powers included in a POA can be broad (or limited if that is desirable). Powers that can be given to an attorney-in-fact include: managing bank accounts, investments and real estate; investing assets; selling personal property and real estate; dealing with Social Security and filing income tax returns. Without a POA, a guardianship may be necessary.
How do I make an appointment to see an attorney?
We have offices in Mayfield Heights, Westlake and Independence. First, choose a location that is convenient for you. Next, call our Mayfield Heights office at 216-765-0123 and ask for Geri Nowak, our office manager. Geri will be able to set a convenient time for you to meet with an attorney. You will receive a letter in the mail indicating what information you should bring with you to the meeting.
How do I protect my children's inheritance from the in-laws?
With divorce rates high, it is not uncommon for a parent to wish to protect his or her child’s inheritance from a daughter-in-law or son-in-law. If you leave an inheritance outright to a child, his or her natural inclination may be to share (commingle) that inheritance with his or her spouse. Later, if a divorce occurs, those assets may be split. You can avoid this commingling by segregating the funds for your child in a SAFE Trust. The SAFE Trust can hold the assets for your child without allowing the assets to be commingled providing better protection than giving the assets outright to a child.
How should I title any real estate I own?
Commercial real estate, including residential rental properties, generally should be held by limited liability companies to protect you from potential liabilities connected with real estate, such as injuries occurring on the property or environmental damage while still preserving the beneficial income tax treatment of real estate. Your personal residence generally should not be titled in a limited liability company without considering the potential adverse income tax consequences, including loss of the $250,000/$500,000 income tax exclusion on the sale of your house.
What are the four key documents of your estate plan?
1. The Last Will and Testament
A Will is a document signed by an individual (the “Testator”) in accordance with certain formalities that directs the disposition of his property (personal possessions, “intangible” assets, such as cash, stock and bonds, as well as real estate) at death.
A Will allows the Testator to choose a guardian for his or her minor children if the other parent is not living. Without a Will, the probate court will determine who will serve as guardian.
2. The Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document in which the principal (the person giving the power) authorizes an agent (called an “attorney-in-fact”) to perform certain acts relating to the principal’s finances. The attorney-in-fact does not have to be an attorney.
3. The Health Care Power of Attorney
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a written document signed by the principal, which authorizes an attorney-in-fact to make all health care decisions for the principal when the attending physician determines that the principal is incapacitated so as to be unable to make health care decisions for himself or herself.
4. The Living Will
Living Wills, called “Declarations,” are used by individuals, called “declarants,” who desire to express their wishes regarding their health care if they should be terminally ill or in a permanently unconscious state.
What do I have to bring to my first meeting?
When you make your appointment, you will be sent a confirmation letter that outlines everything you need to bring. For a preview, please take a look at our Client Intake forms.
What is a paralegal and what do they do?
A paralegal is a specially trained legal assistant who works under the supervision of an attorney. They are often certified with special training in college or paralegal school. When you have dealings with one of our paralegals, rest assured that you are receiving great client service. Although a paralegal cannot give legal advice, they can relay legal information from an attorney. Additionally, they can answer many questions and take care of many issues quickly and efficiently. We take pride in our highly trained and knowledgeable paralegals.
Where are your offices located?
We have three law offices throughout the greater Cleveland, OH area. Please find a list of office locations here.
Will I know the legal fees up front?
After you meet with an attorney, the attorney will give you his or her recommendations. We handle many matters on a fixed fee basis meaning that you know the fee up front. If it is a matter best served on an hourly basis, you will know our hourly rates up front and we can usually provide you with an estimate of the time involved.
Will my parents lose their life savings if they need to go to a nursing home?
Facing the cost of nursing home care can be scary. In Ohio, that cost is sky rocketing to an average rate of $7,000/month to $10,000/month. An ordinary citizen cannot pay these costs indefinitely without facing financial ruin. This does not need to be the case. If you or a loved one face placement in a nursing home, it is important to know the Medicaid rules for qualification if you cannot afford to pay privately. There are many planning tools available to both married couples and single individuals to protect the spouse at home and even to provide a small inheritance for heirs. For more information on qualifying for Medicaid, call Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd.