How do I know if I need a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement in which a trustee holds and manages trust assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. A trust can be used for a variety of purposes, such as protecting assets from creditors or lawsuits, minimizing taxes, and providing for loved ones who are unable to manage their own affairs.

Here are some situations where a trust may be needed:

  1. If you have significant assets a trust can help protect those assets from creditors and lawsuits
    and can also be used to minimize taxes on your estate.
  2. If you have minor children: a trust can be used to provide for your children in the event of your
    death and to name a guardian to care for them if necessary.
  3. If you have beneficiaries with special needs: A trust can be used to provide for the beneficiaries
    who are unable to manage their own affairs.
  4. If you want to provide for a loved one in a specific way: a trust can be used to specify how and
    when assets will be distributed to beneficiaries, giving you more control over how your assets
    are used.
  5. If you want to keep your assets private: a trust can help keep your assets out of probate, which
    is a court-supervised process that can make your assets and the distribution of those assets

It’s important to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning to determine if a trust is
the right solution for your situation.

Why do I need a Will?

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed after death. There are several reasons why it is important to have a will:

  1. It ensures that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes rather than being
    determined according to state law.
  2. It can help prevent disputes among your loved ones over the distribution of your assets.
  3. It can be used to provide for children or other family members who are unable to care for
  4. It can be used to name a guardian for a minor child and ensure they will be cared for by
    someone you trust.
  5. It can be used to name an executor who will be responsible for managing and distributing your
    assets according to your will
  6. It can help minimize estate taxes by allowing you to plan for the distribution of your assets in a
    tax-efficient manner.
  7. It is important to note that without a will, the state will decide how your assets will be
    distributed, which may not align with your wishes or what is best for your family. Additionally, if
    you have minor children a will is imperative to appoint a guardian for them.

What are guardianships and how are they important?

A guardianship is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints a person, known as a guardian, to make decisions and take care of another person, known as a ward, who cannot care for themselves. Guardianships are typically established for individuals who cannot make decisions for themselves due to factors such as age, disability, or incapacity. There are two types of guardianships; Guardianship of the person and Guardianship of the estate A guardianship of the estate is a person who is responsible for the day-to-day care and well-being of the ward, while a guardian of the estate is responsible for managing the ward’s financial affairs.

Guardianships are important in several ways:

  1. They protect individuals who are unable to make decisions or care for
  2. They ensure that the ward’s physical and financial needs are met by appointing someone to
    manage their care and finances.
  3. They can help with financial exploitation or abuse of the ward by having someone with legal
    authority to manage their financial affairs.
  4. They help with decision-making for the ward as the appointed guardian acts as a substitute
    decision maker for the ward.
  5. They can help with the continuity of care as the ward can continue to love in familiar
    surroundings or with familiar people.
  6. Guardianships are typically established through the probate court and can be costly, so it is
    important to consider if there are alternative options such as powers of attorney, trusts, or living
    wills before seeking guardianship.

What are the factors the court will consider for child custody?

When a court is determining child custody in a divorce matter, the primary consideration the best interest of the children. The court will consider a variety of factors when making a determination, including,

  1. The child’s relationship with each parent; this includes the child’s emotional, physical and
    physiological relationship with each parent.
  2. The child’s preference is the child if old enough and has the ability to express a preference, the
    court will take that into consideration.
  3. The parent’s ability to provide for the child’s emotional and physical needs, such as parent’s
    income, employment and living situations.
  4. The parent’s ability to co-parent which includes the ability to work together to make decisions
    and communicate effectively.
  5. The child’s stability and continuity; the court will consider the child’s current living situation and
    the continuity of that situation in regard to education, relationships and community.
  6. The child’s safety; the court will consider if there is any history of abuse or neglect by either
  7. The parent’s moral fitness; the court will consider any history of criminal activity, drug or alcohol
    abuse or any other behavior which may put the child at risk.
  8. The parents; work schedule and availability to care for the child.

It is important to note that these are not the only factors the court will consider, and the weight given to each factor will vary depending on the specific case. Additionally, the court may also consider any other relevant information that may be presented to them.

Working through the Unthinkable: Obtaining a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order

Asking a court to issue an order of protection is one of the last things anyone wants to think about; however, if you or your loved ones are involved in an abusive or otherwise dangerous relationship, it is important to know to whom to turn for help. You can call the police to report an act of violence, but how do you keep the perpetrator away?

Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders (DV-CPO), pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 3113.31 are issued by the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, when the parties involved are family or household members. You can seek an order of protection for yourself, your children, or on behalf of any family or household member in one of three counties – where you (the Petitioner) reside, where the Respondent resides, or in the county where the incident occurred.

Who qualifies as a family or household member? Pursuant to Ohio law, a family or household member can be a person who is residing or has resided with the Respondent at some point in the past. This can include a spouse, a former spouse, a foster parent, a child, or any other person related by love or affection to the Respondent. A family or household member can also be a person living as a spouse with the Respondent. In order to determine if you are “living as a spouse,” courts will look at factors such as whether you are currently living with or have lived with the respondent in the past five years, whether you had a common law marriage until October 1, 1999, whether you were involved in a same- sex relationship, or if you were involved in an intimate relationship with the Respondent while sharing family and/or financial responsibilities. A family or household member could also be someone who had never resided with the Respondent, but who shares a child with him or her.

Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders are issued in response to violent threats or acts. This could include domestic violence, assault, felonious assault, any sexually oriented offense, or any other attempt to cause bodily harm. It also includes threats which place you in fear of imminent physical harm. It is not required that criminal charges be filed, but you must be able to substantiate the claims that you are making with evidence.

Once you ask the court for the DV-CPO, an ex parte hearing is held on the day of the filing. An ex parte hearing means that you present the evidence you have to the judge or magistrate, but the Respondent is not present at the hearing. A magistrate may conduct the hearing and grant or deny the DV-CPO without requiring the judge’s approval for it be final. If your request at the ex parte hearing is granted, the Order is effective once signed and filed with the clerk, but only until the expiration date. The matter will then be set for a full hearing, so the Respondent has a chance to be heard.

DV-CPOs are designed to ensure the safety and protection of all protected parties. To that end, they can offer many different types of relief. They can evict Respondents and give exclusive use of the family home to the protected parties, temporarily allocate parental rights and responsibilities, require the Respondent to maintain support for the protected parties or the children, prohibit the Respondent from going near the parties, require the Respondent to seek counseling, or any other relief that the court determines is equitable and fair. Another important form of relief DV-CPOs offer is a firearms disability notice, prohibiting the Respondent from using or possessing any firearms. If the Respondent violates the Order, he or she could be found in contempt of court or even be prosecuted for the violation.

DV-CPOs are typically good for a period of five years, unless a sooner expiration date is sought; however, they are renewable in the same manner that the original was issued or approved.

Article contributed by Stephanie Anderson

Traditional Divorce Alternative: Collaborative Divorce

When it comes to getting a divorce, there are many things you need to know in order to make the best decision for yourself and your family. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to go through with a collaborative divorce or a traditional divorce. This article will explore the differences between these two types of divorces and help you decide which is right for you.

Traditional Divorce

A traditional divorce is when both parties go to court and have a judge decide all the details of their divorce. This process can be very stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. In addition, there is a lot of potential for conflict between the spouses, and the outcome is often not what either party wants.

Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce is a new divorce method where both parties work together to dissolve their marriage. This type of divorce is much less stressful than a traditional divorce because there is minimal conflict between the spouses. It’s also more affordable than a traditional divorce because there is no need for lawyers or a court hearing. The outcome of a collaborative divorce is typically what both parties wanted all along.

Collaborative divorces have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to the many benefits they offer.

Here are some of the biggest benefits of a collaborative divorce:

1. Less Stress – A collaborative divorce is less stressful than a traditional divorce because there is minimal conflict between the spouses. This can be a huge relief for people who are already going through a difficult time.

2. Fewer Disagreements – Since both parties are working together to dissolve the marriage, there is less chance of disagreements over property division and child custody. This can save both parties a lot of time and hassle.

3. Lower Costs – A collaborative divorce typically costs less than a traditional divorce because there is no need for lawyers or a court hearing. This can be especially helpful for couples who are on a tight budget

For collaborative divorce to work, both parties must be willing to cooperate and be open to negotiation. The process usually starts with both parties meeting with a mediator, who will help them discuss and resolve all the issues. If both parties can reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a settlement that outlines the divorce terms. If one or both parties cannot reach an agreement, the case may have to go to court.

Are you interested in learning about collaborative divorce? Reach out to Anna today to learn more about your divorce options!

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a person that gets appointed by the court to make a recommendation as to the child’s best interest. In some counties in Ohio, only attorneys act as GALs. In other counties in Ohio, people volunteer to act as GALs through the CASA (court-appointed special advocate) program. Either parent can request a GAL, or the court can appoint a GAL on the court’s own motion.

Once the GAL is appointed, they will contact both parents to set up a home visit and begin their investigation. The GAL will speak to each parent, the child, any siblings, the child’s teacher, and the school administration. The GAL reviews records, speaks with other family members, watches the child’s interaction with both parents, and provides the court with a written report that provides detailed information about their investigation. The GAL report will also make a recommendation regarding what is in the child’s best interest.

The GAL will testify in court regarding their report, and the court will consider the GAL’s recommendation when issuing the final order.

Why People Should LOVE Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is totally outside the courtroom, except for agreed upon mandatory filings necessary for a dissolution filing. The basic elements of collaborative law are as follows:

  • There is a written agreement (collaborative contract) signed by clients and lawyers whereby they agree none will make use of the court process during the collaborative process.
  • Parties use good faith problem-solving skills to obtain an end result for the parties.
  • Neither party may participate in any litigation against the other party/client after signing on as the collaborative attorney.
  • Collaborative lawyers are essentially fired if one of the parties/clients chooses to litigate instead of using the collaborative process.
  • Each party has their lawyer by their side and actively participates in all the collaborative meetings.
  • Experts may be retained and when they are, they act as neutrals and they are also barred from participating in litigation.

While collaborative law may initially seem similar to mediation as it is both interest-based, it is not the same thing. Collaborative lawyers are advocates and not neutrals as in the mediation process. Collaborative attorneys learn constructive methods of assisting clients to advocate and prioritize the needs of the parties. It also differs as the risk of failure is equalized to the lawyers as well as the clients. If one of the clients chooses to litigate then the collaborative lawyers are no longer needed and, therefore, effectively “fired”. The is an added incentive to all the parties to become effective problem solvers.

The benefits of collaborative law are many and they include:

  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • The ability to be creative in the final settlement
  • Ability to focus on children and “think outside the box”
  • Keeps cases out of the courtroom
  • Clients have control over the process

How is Parenting Time Decided?

In Ohio, one parent can have sole custody or the parents can share parenting time. In a sole custody arrangement, one parent decides on everything from medical care to decisions regarding the child’s school. In shared parenting, both parents can make decisions for the child.

When determining whether sole custody or shared parenting will be ordered, the courts consider what is in the child’s best interests. There are several factors that the court considers when making that decision, including the following: each parent’s wishes and the wishes of the children; how the children feel about each parent’s home and community; if either parent has withheld the children from the other parent; whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the children; and the recommendation of a guardian ad litem.

The court will typically have a model visitation schedule, in which the children live with one parent most of the time, having parenting time with the other parent every other weekend and additional days during the week.

Parents can agree on a different schedule than the court’s model visitation schedule if they find that there is a schedule that works better for their family, such as spending one week with the mother and the following week with the father.

The court’s model visitation schedule can be found on the court’s website, and the Ohio Supreme Court has some model visitation schedules available to review.

Written by Karen Hummel at

I always urge clients to FUND THEIR TRUSTS

Advising clients to use a trust as an estate planning tool is ordinary in my practice. I also urge my clients that just having a trust is ineffective unless it is properly funded. Just signing the trust is not enough. In order for the trust to be effective the Trustee must hold title to the assets in the trust. When clients do not retitle the assets into the name of the trust it really defeats one of the purposes of having a trust.

One main purpose of having a trust is to avoid probate and all the expenses and costs associated with probate. I advise clients to fund their trust as soon as it is created, and I usually assist them with transferring their real property. Many clients are able to transfer their checking and savings account, their wealth management accounts and cars without assistance from me. Don’t forget to properly fund your trust!