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Monday, May 7, 2012

Bill would establish alternative divorce procedure in Ohio 9:50 pm edt 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where there's a Will there's a way....
On February 5, 2012 the Akron Beacon Journal published an article about "Wills and other legal documents"....

There are a variety of components to estate planning.

One area concerns Joint and Survivorship Deeds or a Transfer on Death affidavit, which is recommended for people in a first marriage or single people with a home as the largest asset they own. Examining that documentation has become a project of new Summit County Probate Court Judge Todd McKenney. But David Woodburn, former probate chair for the Akron Bar Association, says it’s also important to consider wills and other estate topics. Woodburn is an attorney with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP.

Readers may recall that I consulted with Woodburn in July 2010 for a series of stories and columns on important documents everyone needs to have before they die. I’m going to go over some of the details from those stories below, but because of space constraints, I can’t go into lots of details. We’ve put all of those stories online so you can read them in their entirety as well as my report last week on McKenney’s community deed project at The documents McKenney suggests are good, Woodburn said. They are, however, “not a replacement of a will, but a companion tool. “You would still have other assets that could go through probate ­— personal property and bank accounts,” he said. McKenney agrees. “My view of the will is it’s more like a backstop in baseball. As we do this kind of planning, my hope is I don’t have to use the will. It’s more expensive to have the lawyer. If I have to use the will, that means I’ve got a probate estate and that’s more expensive. If you do it right, nothing will go to probate. Do I still need a will? Yeah.”

As an example in the case of spouses, ownership of two cars under a combined value of $40,000 can pass outside of probate, McKenney said. If a car or cars are titled only in one name, at that person’s death, Ohio law allows the surviving spouse to transfer up to two cars without transfer on death paperwork. If cars are titled in both names, there is no issue. A single person would need a Transfer on Death notation, which costs about $15 at the title bureau, to transfer the car to someone else without going to probate. If bank accounts are only in one name, you need to have a Payable on Death notation to leave it to someone else. If not, it will head to probate, McKenney said.

Here are three documents Woodburn says everyone should have and a fourth that is optional:

A will: Everyone should have a will. Wills can be drawn up by a lawyer or written on a piece of paper. There are documents online from nonprofits and universities. It’s important they are filled out and witnessed properly, Woodburn said.

A general power of attorney: With this, you designate an agent to handle your legal and financial matters. A power of attorney gives someone the authority to write checks or pay bills if you are incapacitated. Without it, someone has to file with a court for legal guardianship. There are major changes coming to the Power of Attorney laws on March 22, which would significantly change documents filed after that date, so that’s more reason to do it now. The power-of-attorney form from the Ohio Revised Code is online at and can be used until March 21.

• A health-care power of attorney: This names an agent to make medical decisions for you if or when needed. Give a copy to your agent (typically a spouse) or alternate ahead of time, in addition to a living will, if you have one...

Living will: If you feel strongly about not being placed on medical life support, then a living will is the fourth and optional document. The living will would take the decision off relatives and rely solely on medical assessments of two physicians to take you off life support if you are in a permanently unconscious state...

8:01 pm edt 

Do you need a Survivirship Deed?
The Akron Beacon Journal recently published several informative articles discussing the new Summit County Probate Judge, Todd McKenney's, new community project to help Summit county residents! 
Contact us! We will happily review your current deed(s) -free of charge- and help you dertemine whether or not a Survivorship Deed would benefit you and your loved ones. If needed, we charge $100.00 per deed (plus recording fee).

Probate judge launches project to help some avoid probate

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal business writer

January 29, 2012:

"When Geri Hensley died of cancer in December 2010, her husband, Stan, assumed he would be headed to Summit County Probate Court to resolve ownership of assets from his 53-year marriage.

Hensley hired an attorney, went through a full probate estate process, and after nine months and expenses of $2,800, the house in Green is now just in Stan’s name. Another piece of property in Harrison County remains tied up in probate court there.

Hensley didn’t know that if he and Geri had filed a document called a Joint and Survivorship Deed with the counties, he could have spent about $200 and avoided court. The deed would have allowed house ownership to transfer to a surviving spouse after a death.

It would have cost about $100 for the deed and $100 for a sworn affidavit after Geri died.

Because of cases such as these, new Summit County Probate Judge Todd McKenney is launching a community project to help county residents better understand probate procedures. McKenney said there are 235,483 residential property deeds filed in Summit County.

“The only reason he had a probate estate was to transfer the real estate,” said McKenney of Hensley. “I just don’t see why people should have to do it. I don’t see why Stan had to spend nine months and $3,000.

“It is not just the money, but the frustration of completing the probate estate shortly after the loss of a loved one,” said McKenney, who was appointed probate judge in November and resigned as a state representative to take the position after the retirement of Bill Spicer.

A few days after taking his oath in December, McKenney announced he would not run for election to the job because he had community projects in mind that needed his full attention.

Partnership sought.

McKenney wants a partnership with communities and volunteers to examine residential deeds on file in Summit County and to notify homeowners who could benefit from a Joint and Survivorship Deed or another document called a Transfer on Death Affidavit (often called a TOD or a TOD deed). The transfer allows a property to go from a single person or widow or widower to heirs. Both scenarios would transfer property without probate court involvement.

McKenney said these are recommended for people in a first marriage or those who are single with adult children and with a home as their largest asset. (Single or divorced parents with minor children might not want to have a TOD to young children.)

Other scenarios involve people in second marriages or situations where parents want an uneven distribution of assets after death. Also, there are situations with people who have larger estate tax issues. In those cases, the two documents would not be a good idea and an estate planning attorney should be consulted, McKenney said. The two documents also do not work for people who have created trusts, which are a different vehicle to possibly avoid probate.

Many people assume their existing deed already gives home ownership to a surviving spouse because of the language, McKenney said. But a deed must say words to the effect of “to the survivor of them” for a transfer. Most deeds have the word “heirs” in it, but that is legally insufficient, he said.

Project wins praise

Mike Robinson, president of the Akron Bar Association, said McKenney’s project could be the first in Ohio for a probate judge. “I think it’s a great idea. It could potentially save residents thousands of dollars in unnecessary attorneys fees,” he said.

Several lawyers with the Bar Association’s Referral Service have agreed to take less money with a fee of $100 to help residents who would like to create a Joint and Survivorship Deed or TOD Affidavit as a public service project, Robinson said. Community Legal Aid can also help low-income residents, if needed and if they qualify for services, Executive Director Sara Strattan said. McKenney doesn’t have a goal for how many records that volunteers will examine, but knows he only has this year for the idea while he is in office. He’d like to cut the number of estate cases by half in five years, he said.

McKenney has started with a pilot program in the village of Reminderville where volunteers have examined 1,500 deeds and found about 37 percent could benefit from updated documents. Deeds filed since 1988 can be viewed online from any computer. Deeds before 1988 can be viewed at the Summit County Fiscal Office or requested by mail. McKenney will have computers in his chambers for volunteers to look up older deeds. After volunteers compile the list of residents flagged, an independent panel of attorneys, who will not receive legal work for volunteering, will review the deeds.

In Reminderville, Mayor Sam Alonso will send a letter to residents and have volunteers follow up with phone calls about a public meeting with McKenney on Feb. 7 at the Bertram Inn.

Alonso and McKenney said some people might be concerned about volunteers searching through public records about their houses. Deeds do not list monetary value, just the names of the homeowners. “We’re not just creeping on you as the kids say today,” Alonso said. “We’re really doing it because it is helpful to you. The ball is still in their court. They don’t have to do this if they don’t want to. We just want it to be known there’s another way to look at it.""

7:20 pm edt 

2012.05.01 | 2012.03.01

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