Understanding the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust

Do you need a will? Do you need a trust? What the heck is a trust? Most clients I meet with know they need a will. Most have heard of a trust. But most cannot really define a trust or define why a trust is or is not appropriate for their specific needs. So what is the difference?

A will specifies who your family is, who you want to leave your assets to when you die, how you want to leave those assets, and it identifies an executor who will help take care of the your affairs after death. A will is also where you nominate a potential guardian for minor children. 

A will only goes into effect after you die. It has no legal effect during your lifetime. Further, a will does not avoid probate court. Probate is the legal process through which the probate court sees that, when you die, your debts are paid and your assets are distributed according to your will. If you do not have a valid will, your assets are distributed according to Ohio law.

Is probate bad? Not necessarily, but there are drawbacks:

  • Probate can be expensive. Legal fees, executor fees, appraisal fees, and other costs must be paid before your assets can be distributed to your heirs. 
  • Probate takes time. It can often take between nine months to two years to go through the probate process. Nothing can be distributed or sold without court and/or executor approval. 
  • Probate records are public records. In Hamilton County, all probate records are available on-line here: www.probatect.org/court-records/court-record-search. Probate is a public process and anyone can see what you owned, whom you owed, who will receive your assets, and when they will receive them. 

A trust, on the other hand, is more like a private contract. A trust goes into effect immediately upon execution. Like a will, a trust specifies who your family is, who you want to leave your assets to and how you want to distribute your assets. Unlike a will, a living trust can avoid probate at death, control all of your assets, and prevent the court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated. 

A trust avoids probate only to the extent that it is "funded." When you set up the trust, you transfer your assets from your name to the name of your trust, which you control. When the trust owns your assets, there is nothing for the courts to control when you die or become incapacitated. You retain full control of your assets. 

A trust involves three parties:

  • Grantor. This is the maker of the trust. It can be an individual or a couple can create a joint trust.
  • Trustee. The trustee controls the assets in the trust. The Grantor is typically the initial trustee. For a couple, both spouses are usually co-trustee. Upon the death or incapacity of the initial trustee, a successor trustee takes over and will then follow the written instructions set forth in the trust.
  • Beneficiaries. This is simply who receives your assets. If you have minor children, you can stage distributions over several years so that your kids do not receive all of your assets at age 18 or 21.

If you create a living trust, you still need a will. A will serves as a safety net if you forget to put an asset into the trust. If you have minor children, you still have to name the guardian in the will as well. 

Just some of the benefits of a living trust include:

  • Avoids probate at death.
  • Brings all of your assets together in one plan.
  • Provides maximum privacy.
  • Quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
  • Assets remain in trust until you want your beneficiaries to inherit.
  • Can be changed or cancelled at any time.
  • Peace of mind.

Please call or email me to set up a time to discuss a plan that is right for your family. It is exceptionally easy to put off drafting a will or trust for another time. But I will make it as painless and straight forward as possible. 

 

 

Why You Must Coordinate Your Assets

An estate plan is more than just your will. More and more wealth is controlled by beneficiary designation. A will does not override or control assets that contain a beneficiary designation. Such assets may include:

  • Real estate controlled by a Transfer on Death Designation Affidavit
  • IRAs
  • 401ks
  • Life insurance
  • 529 plans
  • Brokerage accounts with beneficiary designation
  • Bank accounts with beneficiary designation

How does this apply in the "real world"? If a person takes out a life insurance policy and names only their oldest child as their beneficiary, but then drafts a will that states that multiple children are to take equally, those other children will not receive any of the life insurance proceeds. A will only controls the items that are in the client's name upon death. All assets with a beneficiary designation transfer to the beneficiary upon death and are not part of the probate estate and are not controlled by the will. 

A well-drafted will or trust is an integral part of any estate plan. Assets with beneficiary designations serve an important role as well and are entirely appropriate. However, it is crucial that assets with beneficiary designations are coordinated with the rest of the estate plan to ensure the objectives and wishes are met. 

Please contact me to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.

Four Estate Planning Items Every Family Should Have

To dispel a common misperception, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. A basic estate plan is necessary for everyone, regardless of income or assets, because we all want to minimize costs, confusion, and stress for loved ones after a death. If you do not make your own plan, your assets will pass under laws created by the State of Ohio.

At a minimum, everyone should have the following four items:

1. A current will or trust. Everyone should have a will. A revocable living trust is appropriate for some, particularly for parents with minor children or those who own property out of state. A trust can help avoid probate, which helps beneficiaries gain assets more quickly, saves time, court costs, and increases privacy by not becoming public records at the probate court.

 2. A durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows someone else to make financial and legal decisions if a person becomes hospitalized, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated. 

3. Advanced health care directives. I recommend everyone have a health care power of attorney and living will in place. These two documents work together to allow an agent to make medical decisions if the person who creates the document is unable to communicate their own medical wishes. The living will primarily involves end of life decisions while the health care power of attorney allows the agent to obtain medical information and make medical decisions on your behalf.

4. Updated beneficiary formsBeneficiary designation forms on life insurance policies, 401(k) accounts and other assets will generally override any conflicting provisions in a will or trust. It is essential to make sure all beneficiary designation forms are checked and regularly updated.  

I can help create or update these basic items as well as provide suggestions for additional steps, if needed. Please call or email me to schedule a meeting. 

Top 10 Things to Know After a Car Accident

1.    Stop. You must stay at the scene. You can move the cars to a safe place if necessary, but do not leave the area.

2.    Check for injuries for you, your passengers, and other involved in the accident. If seriously injured, go straight to the emergency room.

3.    Call 911 or the Police. You need a police report for insurance purposes.

4.    Use your cell phone camera. Take pictures of vehicle damage, skid marks, and of the accident scene. Record possible admissions on video.

5.    Exchange information. Get the other driver’s name, insurance information, license plate number, and driver’s license number.

6.    Seek medical treatment. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. Insurance companies will use gaps or delays in treatment, even minor ones, against you. Some injuries are not apparent for several days. Even when the car sustains minor damage, you can be injured. Did you or the car absorb contact?

7.    Do not admit fault, guilt, apologize, or accept responsibility.

8.    Do not provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. They will attempt to distort your words to be used against you.

9.    Have proper insurance coverage. Current minimum requirements in Ohio are $25,000 for injury/death of one person and $50,000 for injury/death of two or more people. That goes quickly. Do you have Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage? Do you need an umbrella policy? Do not go cheap with low policy limits.

10.    Hire an experienced lawyer. You should contact an experienced Cincinnati car accident lawyer as soon as possible following your accident. An attorney will guide and help you think through a variety of circumstances that might otherwise be overlooked, possibly costing you a substantial amount of money.

New Ohio Law Gives POA Authority for Digital Assets

Twitter. Gmail. Facebook. Snapchat. Dropbox. Itunes. You get the idea. So much of what we do is now online. Revised Code Section 1337.571 becomes effective this week and gives fiduciary power to access digital assets. When crafting your estate plan, consideration must be given to what happens to your digital assets. This new law helps fill in some of the blanks. 

The law allows a power of attorney to:

A) Have access to any catalogue of electronic communications sent or received by the principal;

B) Have access to to any other digital asset in which the principal has a right or interest;

C) Have the right to access any of the principal's tangible personal property capable of receiving, storing, processing, or sending a digital asset;

D) Take any action concerning the asset to the extent of the account holder's authority; and

E) Have access to the content of electronic communications sent or received by the principal. 

Please contact me to help you plan for your future by drafting a plan that is right for your family.

Manchester by the Sea Provides Planning Lessons

I finally watched Manchester by the Sea last night. I will spare you my poor attempt to play Roger Ebert. It is not exactly uplifting but it is definitely worth watching and I thought it was very well done. Casey Affleck (playing Lee Chander) in particular was very good. So was Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor for you Friday Night Lights fans, playing Joe Chandler). The movie does provide some good estate planning lessons for parents. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Tip 1: Parents with minor children must, at a minimum, have a will that nominates a guardian to care for their kids. In Manchester by the Sea, Joe Chandler had a 16 year-old son, Patrick. After Joe died, Lee was nominated to care for Patrick. If you do not identify who you want to take care of your children, the courts may decide for you.
  • Tip 2: Talk to and get the consent of the person you intend to select to serve as the guardian. Lee Chandler was shocked to learn that Joe had named him as the guardian for his son. It is generally much better to avoid blind-siding a relative or close friend in what will already be an emotional time.
  • Tip 3: Tailor your estate plan to meet your needs. In the movie, Joe ensured that certain things were in place to both care for his son (such as money for Patrick's daily expenses, providing that Patrick would inherit the house and a boat when he turned 18) and for Lee ($5,000 for moving expenses, etc.). Parents often prefer to delay distributions of larger assets until the kids are older and some choose to stagger distributions at different ages. There is no one-size fits all plan. These are truly decisions that must be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of each individual family. If your family has special or unique dynamics, take the time to establish a plan that is right for you.
  • Tip 4: Everyone needs a plan. An estate plan is not just for the very wealthy or senior citizens. Proper planning provides peace of mind no matter the extent of your assets. Some people and families may need more complex plans than others, but everyone should have something in place. In the movie, Joe was not rich. But he realized the need to plan to take care of Patrick and he implemented the documents to do so. Regardless of your circumstances, it is better to take control and dictate how you want your assets distributed rather than allow someone else to make the decisions for you.

 

Tenant's Compensation in Ohio Eminent Domain Cases

The use of eminent domain to acquire commercial property impacts tenants as well as the owner/landlord of the property. Ohio uses the undivided-fee rule, which first values the property as a whole and then apportions the award to each property interest. This procedure can create tension between landlords and tenants as both parties typically want to maximize their respective compensation awards. For this reason, tenants in commercial eminent domain cases should have separate legal counsel.

To determine the tenant's rights to recovery, the first place to look is always the lease. The terms of the lease will govern. If the lease is silent to this issue, the tenant's measure of recovery is the market value of the use of the property for the remainder of the lease term minus the agreed rent. The tenant must essentially show that the lease has a bonus value, that is the rents payable under the lease must be shown to be less than the market rate.

Each case is different and unique. An experienced eminent domain attorney can help counsel and advise commercial tenants on the best strategy to maximize recovery. McCarthy Law Office represents clients in eminent domain cases on an hourly or contingent fee basis, depending on the facts of the case. Please contact our office with any questions.

Estate Planning Process

My estate planning process is typically a 3-step process. I meet with clients to assess their unique situation to create an individualized plan to specifically address their personal wants and needs. 

STEP 1: CONSULTATION AND SIGN-UP

The first step is about information gathering, understanding your goals, explaining the various documents and answering your questions. I provide a client in-take form that provides details about your personal and family information.  At this stage, we also discuss the people you want to appoint to important roles such as guardians for your children, trustees, and health care agents. At the end of this meeting, I should know your objectives and have a plan in mind to reach them.

STEP 2: DRAFTING THE PLAN

After we meet and decide on the form of your estate plan, I begin to draft the necessary documents. The plan I draft for you is focused on achieving your objectives, including providing for your children, getting your affairs in order, and stating your health care wishes. To craft your plan, I will use the information provided in the initial consultation as well as any follow up questions that may arise.  

STEP 3: DOCUMENT REVIEW AND SIGNING

We will then meet to thoroughly discuss each document. I will explain the documents in detail and answer any questions you have. It is crucial that the plan meets your objectives and that you fully understand the role each document plays in the estate plan. I want each client to leave the final meeting confident in their understanding of the plan. 

Once we have reviewed the documents, it is time to sign.  I will ensure we meet the legal requirements to execute each document, including the required witnesses.  I will also help with funding the plan, including properly designating beneficiaries and titling assets. 

Once finalized and signed, I will provide you with the original documents in a binder.  I will also provide an electronic copy upon request for easy access or sharing.  

 

McCarthy named a Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2016

It is always nice to be recognized by one's peers.  I was once again named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers for 2016.  This is in the third year in a row I have received this recognition.  Super Lawyers uses an in-depth selection process that starts with nominations and evaluations from other attorneys in the area.  They then conduct independent research to further evaluate those nominated.  No more than 5 percent of lawyers in a state are named as Super Lawyers and no more than 2.5 percent are named as Rising Star Super Lawyers.  More information on their selection process is available here: http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html

So for those who nominated and evaluated me, thank you.


Decisions for Parents with Young Children

As we move into the Holiday season, it is a good time to to draft or reassess estate planning documents.  Parents with minor children have important decisions to make.  People generally never want to think about worst case situation of a simultaneous death of both parents, but having the discussion and drafting detailed documents is a necessity.  I encourage my clients to strongly consider a living trust that provides for the care of their children and distribution of assets if necessary.  In drafting a living trust, parents must consider who they would want to serve as the guardian of their children.  Where would the kids live? Who would serve as the trustee of the assets? When should the children receive the assets, including life insurance proceeds? Most clients prefer their children not receive a large amount of money at a young age, such as 18 or 21.  Many parents like to stagger the ages to receive the assets, such as 1/3 of the estate at age 21, 1/3 at age 25, and the remainder at age 30.  But the benefit of living trusts is the flexibility available to suit your individual needs and desires.  

If you are a parent with minor children, please give me a call to help you craft an estate plan that works best for your family.  

CBA Hosts Local Government CLE on 10-16-15

I am the Chair of the Cincinnati Bar Association Local Government Law Committee.  The Committee meets once a month and consists of lawyers who work with city, county, and other local government bodies.  We discuss topics relevant to local governments, such as eminent domain, zoning, local taxes, public records law, and public employment law.

We also host an annual Continuing Legal Education course.  Our seminar this year will take place on Friday, October 16th at the CBA offices at 225 E. 6th Street downtown.  More information is available at http://www.cincybar.org/calendar/2015-10/4945.

This year, we are focusing on three important and timely topics.  Our first presentation will focus on recent developments in public records and open meetings law.  We will then have a panel discussion entitled, "The Heroin Epidemic's Impact on Local Governments."  We have assembled a fantastic panel with a wide breadth of knowledge and experience.  Finally, we will discuss recent changes Ohio enacted to municipal income taxes.  

I hope to see many familiar faces at the CLE.

Estate Planning Considerations for Families

Who needs a will?  In short, anyone with either property or kids.  I have talked to many people who have the best of intentions of finally drafting a will.  But it is very easy to put off drafting a will until tomorrow.  Tomorrow becomes next week, which becomes next month, which becomes next year.  A proper estate plan is essential for families, particularly for parents with minor children.   A will is not the only document necessary.  A short summary of documents necessary for most families is below.  Please note that there is no one size fits all document.  I encourage you to call me to tailor a complete estate plan to meet your individual needs. 

When I meet with parents with minor children, I typically recommend the following documents:

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENTa will directs the distribution of probate assets upon death.  A will also identifies who the testator wants to serve as the executor of the estate.  Parents also can identify who they want to serve as guardians of their minor children in the will.  This is probably the most important reason for parents with young children to execute a will.  The probate court will ultimately appoint a guardian for children if both parents pass away, but parents should clearly identify who they want to care for their children in the event a guardian becomes necessary.

REVOCABLE ("LIVING") TRUST: a trust is a very useful device to manage property.  Trusts can be intimidating.  But the basics are not complicated.  In a trust, the owner (settlor) transfers property to a trustee.  The trustee manages the property for someone identified as a beneficiary.  Property placed into a revocable trust is generally not subject to the probate process.  Trusts provide a clear estate management plan for after the settlor's death.  Parents can also instruct that assets be distributed to their kids at staggered times.  Under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, in Ohio, children can receive assets once they reach age 21.  But in a trust, a parent can pass part of their assets once the children obtain specific ages, such as 1/3 at age 21, 1/3 at age 25, and the remainder at age 30.  But trusts are also very flexible and can be drafted to suit your needs and wishes.  

LIVING WILL AND HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: a living will allows the signer to state their intentions regarding withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, including CPR, when they are no longer competent to make informed medical decisions.  A living will becomes the way a person communicates their wishes when the patient is in a terminal condition and can no longer make informed decisions.

The health care power of attorney designates an attorney in fact to make health care decisions when the patient is unable to communicate his or her wishes.  The attorney in fact generally has the authority to give informed consent, refuse to give informed consent, and to withdraw informed consent for any medical treatment.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY: this document is intended to cover your financial matters in the event you cannot handle them yourself.  A durable power of attorney helps the management of a person’s affairs during periods of incompetence without the necessity of seeking an order from the Probate Court.  

Presentation at Gamma Phi Beta Conference

I want to thank Laurie Veldhuizen and the women of Gamma Phi Beta.  I recently presented at Gamma Phi Beta's REAL Leadership Institute in Frisco, Texas.  My topic was "Liability: Protecting Gamma Phi Beta."  I was joined by Laurie Velduizen, the organization's Executive Director, and Mary Knaup, the sorority's Collegiate Vice President.  

We spoke for 90 minutes on recent court decisions impacting Greek organizations, Gamma Phi Beta's internal social and disciplinary policies and procedures, as well as best practices to ensure safety and reduce liability.  I was truly impressed with the crowd participation and thoughtful questions.  Presentations are always better with a good discussion.  The questions raised by the attendees were on point and very relevant.  

In addition to my presentation, I also attended several other sessions.  I thought the panel on Title IX and sexual assaults on campus was fantastic.  All in all, it was a great weekend.  So once again, thank you for inviting me to speak at the REAL Leadership Institute.  

2nd Article for the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association Newsletter

I am writing a series of articles for the GCNKAA Newsletter on chronic nuisance premises ordinances.  My second article, which appears in the April issue, is available on their webpage here: http://gcnkaa.org/newsletter/ 

The Legal Case Against Cincinnati’s Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance

In my previous article, I gave a quick primer on general chronic nuisance property ordinances.  I also mentioned a case in which my client challenged the City of Cincinnati’s Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance.  That case, Downtown Property Management, Inc., v. City of Cincinnati, et al. Southern District of Ohio Case No. 1:10-CV-00523, was filed in the United States District Court in 2010.

The overall aim of the City’s ordinance was to impose responsibility on the landlord for the conduct of tenants, visitors or even trespassers.  Once the City determined a property was a chronic nuisance, the City would then bill the landlord for police runs to the property, even if a visitor a trespasser to the property committed the conduct.  The ordinance also subjected landlords to fines or even criminal prosecution for a two-year period, starting with the date of the initial bill for enforcement.

One of the most troublesome provisions of the ordinance centered on how the City limited the number of nuisance activities permitted per property.  As an example, the ordinance allowed premises with 4 units up to 14 nuisance activities.  At the same time, premises with over 40 units were limited to 11 activities.  Therefore, premises with only 4 units were allowed more nuisance activities than premises with 200 units.  The owners of larger complexes were treated much more harshly than owners of smaller complexes. 

Another troubling provision allowed the City to count police runs as chronic nuisance activities even if the police did not make an arrest.  Further, the ordinance provided no clear method to appeal determinations that a property was a chronic nuisance.  DPM also objected to the vagueness of the ordinance because the ordinance failed to define which specific calls would count toward a property owner’s nuisance activity.

DPM’s complaint included eight total claims, including claims for violating DPM’s substantive and procedural due process rights, and for violating DPM’s equal protection rights.

After prolonged litigation, the parties reached a settlement in December 2013.  While Cincinnati denied it violated DPM’s rights, it agreed to pay $92,500 in legal fees.  But more importantly, Cincinnati agreed to legislative and administrative enforcement modifications to the ordinance.  The ordinance itself was amended to change the threshold levels of permitted nuisance calls for larger properties before a property could be declared a chronic nuisance.  This change made the ordinance more equitable for owners of larger premises. 

Cincinnati also agreed to amend its administrative rules of enforcement.  These changes specified that certain classifications of calls for service would not count when determining the number of calls for chronic nuisance purposes.  The City also agreed to exclude calls for service where the incident involved a trespasser, and calls that are made by the owner or owner’s agent provided that it either occurred in the presence or view of the owner or owner’s agent.  Finally, the City agreed to exclude calls for service if the landlord could demonstrate that the tenant who caused the police run was evicted.

Because of these changes, owners of large premises are now treated more equitably.  Further, all property owners have an ability to have numerous police runs excluded as calls for service under the ordinance.  Not all police runs are automatically counted against a property owner now.  This allows property owners to remove those problematic tenants and prevent the bad acts of a few tenants from having the property declared a chronic nuisance property.

The changes Cincinnati made to the ordinance and to the rules of enforcement greatly improved the ordinance.  But the ordinance is still in place.  In my next article, I will detail steps property owners can take when faced with chronic nuisance reports, including steps to have calls excluded and recommendations for abatement plans.

Please contact me with any questions you have concerning chronic nuisance ordinances.

An Introduction to Chronic Nuisance Ordinances

More and more cities are enacting chronic nuisance property ordinances.  Along with Tim Burke, I represented a large property owner in a federal court challenge to Cincinnati's ordinance.  That case ultimately settled, but only after the City agreed to amend the ordinance and pay a large sum of attorneys' fees.  I have also helped property owners comply with chronic nuisance ordinances by taking proactive safety measures as well as crafting nuisance abatement plans.  

I was recently asked to write an article for the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association's March Newsletter on chronic nuisance ordinances.  This will actually be in the first in a series of articles for their newsletter.  The newsletter is available on the GCNKAA webpage: http://gcnkaa.org/  My article follows:

An Introduction to Chronic Nuisance Ordinances

 In late 2006, the City of Cincinnati adopted Chapter 761 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code, entitled Chronic Nuisance Premises.  The ordinance sought to impose responsibility and sanctions on landlords for the conduct of tenants, visitors, and guests on the landlord’s property. Cincinnati has revised the ordinance at least twice (in late 2011 and late 2013), but the intent of the ordinance has remained the same.  Several Northern Kentucky municipalities, including Florence, Park Hills, and Bellevue, have followed suit, enacting chronic nuisance ordinances of their own.  

Though the various ordinances have different and distinct features, the general framework is similar.  In short, the ordinances contain a list of activities that qualify as a violation of the ordinance.  Such nuisance activities are deemed a nuisance call for service.  When a property passes a certain threshold for a number of nuisance calls for service within a prescribed period of time, the municipality will declare the property to be a chronic nuisance property.

 After a property is declared a chronic nuisance property, the next step is for the property owner to submit a proposed abatement plan to the municipality.  Abatement plans are supposed to contain detailed and specific proactive steps the landlord will take to eliminate, or at a minimum reduce, the number of nuisance calls for service.  Some of the local ordinances contain guidelines for the contents of abatement plans.  Others contain little to no guidance on either the contents of abatement plans or on the standards for approval of proposed plans.

If a property owner is able to get an abatement plan approved, the property should be placed in a safe-harbor, where it is free from fines and citations.  Without an approved abatement plan, the landlord is subject to fees and penalties for additional nuisance calls for service.  The ordinances also often allow the municipality to seek and receive an injunction to shut down the use of the subject property.

But these chronic nuisance ordinances create a number of legal concerns for landlords.  The premise is troubling in itself: holding a property owner liable for the actions of third parties.  Specific legal problems include substantive and procedural due process violations, equal protection violations, potential violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, and unduly restrictive regulations on the use of private property. 

This will be the first article in a series discussing chronic nuisance ordinances.  In my next column, I will discuss the federal lawsuit that Tim Burke and I filed against Cincinnati, in which our clients challenged the City’s chronic nuisance ordinance.  That case, Downtown Property Management, Inc., v. City of Cincinnati, et al. Southern District of Ohio Case No. 1:10-CV-00523, resulted in a settlement in December, 2013.   

Please contact me with any questions you have concerning chronic nuisance ordinances.

Challenge Your Property Taxes (by March 31st)

Want to save money? In Ohio, property owners have the opportunity to reduce their real estate property taxes by filing a Complaint Against the Valuation of Real Property with their County's Board of Revision.  But all such complaints must be filed no later than March 31st.  Miss that deadline and your complaint will be dismissed. 

To determine whether or not you should file, you must determine if the value the County Auditor has set for your property is too high.  Complaints filed this year are actually challenging the valuation for property as of January 1, 2014.  This is because tax bills are paid in arrears in Ohio.  

To determine whether your property is valued too high you cannot simply look at the tax value for your neighbor's properties on the Auditor's website.  The tax value of other properties is not relevant to the value of your property for appeal purposes, but it might at least give you an idea of whether you should pursue a tax complaint.  Instead, you must generally look to comparable sales in the area.  To have the best chance of success before the Board of Revision, it is highly recommended you have an appraisal done by a qualified and respected appraiser.    Without a professional appraisal, your chances of success are not strong.

If it is determined your value is too high, you must then file the formal complaint with the Board of Revision.  The Board will then hold a hearing, where the complainant submits evidence in support of their proposed value.  The Board will hear the evidence presented from both sides and issue a decision on the new tax value.  A property owner can appeal the Board's decision if the owner disagrees with the new value.

I generally represent property owners in property tax complaints on a contingency fee basis.  The fee is a percentage of the first year's tax savings.  The property owner is also responsible for any costs, including the cost of an appraisal.  Please call or email with any questions.  But remember: time is ticking.  Complaints must be filed by March 31st this year.

Welcome to McCarthy Law Office.

Welcome.  Welcome to my new website.  More importantly, welcome to my new law practice.  Starting my own law firm is something I have long envisioned.  It is now a reality.

My father started and operated his own law practice (he still does with my brother and sister-in-law: mccarthylaw.org).  My grandfather operated his own plumbing business.  Following in their entrepreneurial footsteps, I am proud to debut the McCarthy Law Office.

As you can see on this webpage, my practice is geared toward helping individuals, families, and small businesses with their legal needs.  I pride myself on responsive and effective representation.  My practice focuses on four main areas: 1) land use/zoning/eminent domain; 2) family law; 3) wills and trusts; and 4) personal injury. But I welcome calls on any legal issue.  If I cannot help you, I will put you in contact with an experienced attorney who can.

The decision to leave my past firm, where I was a partner and worked at for over ten years, was not an easy one.  I worked with great people and exceptional attorneys.  But the opportunity to follow my dreams and open my own practice compelled me to take this leap.

Thank you for visiting my website.  Please email me at mccarthy@danmccarthylaw.com or call me at 513-815-7006 with any questions.  I very much appreciate your consideration.  

Thank you and Happy New Year.