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Exercise Caution with Joint Accounts

Thursday, 08 December 2011 08:43

writing_checkEstablishing joint bank accounts can be a useful tool in many situations.  It allows husbands and wives to share an account and bank with ease.  It allows an adult child to help an aging parent manage the parent’s finances and pay bills, even if the adult child is not local.  A sibling can assist another sibling oversee his or her finances.  A joint account can avoid probate at the first owner’s death, and may even avoid the need for guardianship over finances, known in Ohio as a guardianship of estate, if the joint account is established before one of the owners is deemed incompetent.

But a joint bank account is not perfect.  While the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner at the death of the first spouse, what happens when the second spouse dies?  Unless a beneficiary is named, usually as a payable-on-death or transfer-on-death beneficiary, the joint account will be a probate asset at the second spouse’s death.

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"Hope I Die Before I Get Old"

Monday, 21 November 2011 11:45

old_coupleI don’t.  I hope I die before I feel too old, yes.  Readers of my generation may recognize The Who’s lyrics.  That one isn’t routinely piped into our downtown office building lobby.  Maybe it will serve as Muzak in our nursing homes in 2050.   But waiting for the elevator the other day, here in 2011, I did hear this one of Simon & Garfunkel’s:  “A good day ain’t got no rain.  A bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might’ve been.”  (Yeah, I had thought it was “ain’t got no pain,” too.  But we’re in Northeast Ohio during the wettest year in several generations.  So what’s the difference.)

But this post is not just about us, the already careworn.  Still raising some family members while laying others to rest.  Or about all the elders out there in the rain.  My mind is actually on my offspring today, after a weekend filled with high-school plays and college applications and cast parties.  Here is a poem my eldest wrote:

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Mediation Services

Monday, 14 November 2011 10:24

handshakeAfter spending two days of advanced mediation training in San Diego last week, I was reminded once again of the importance of looking for alternative ways of resolving legal disputes.  Mediation allows a trained and impartial individual to assist the parties to identify key issues, review alternatives and search for workable solutions.  The process can save tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of emotional strain.  The experience of the mediator provides perspective, a sounding board and the hope of finding common ground when emotions are clouding good judgment.

Hickman & Lowder is developing a mediation practice for all types of disputes, especially disputes in probate court.  Our firm has an extensive probate practice, which includes representing families embroiled in guardianship contests, arguments over wills and other intensely emotional conflicts.   Through mediation, we are able to assist people who wish to avoid complex, expensive and damaging court proceedings.  Hickman & Lowder is currently on the Probate Court referral lists in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties.

- Posted by Frank Hickman

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Military Separation Papers

Monday, 24 October 2011 08:16

dog_tagsAll military retirees and Honorably Discharged veterans should ensure that their family knows the location of their military Separation Document (DD Form 214 from 1950 to present and WD (War Department) Form 53-55 and other variations prior to 1950).

It is important to properly store this important document so it can be readily found when needed.  Some suggestions are:

  • Fire safe in a secure location of the house (not in the bedroom, as this is where most thieves search first). Be sure spouse/NOK knows the location and has key/combination.
  • In the refrigerator in a watertight food container (Glad, Tupperware. etc.). Most refrigerators are fire resistant. Additionally, a refrigerator is heavy enough to fall through the floor of a building into the cooler part of the fire in the basement and better survive. Finally, a refrigerator is large enough to be easily located in the ash and ruble of a fire or other serious incident. (As a bonus, everyone has a refrigerator, not everyone has a fire resistant storage box).

If you don’t know where your military separation papers are, you can request a copy from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)1 by submitting a request on-line (the preferred method) or by mail.

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