Estate Planning in Ohio - When is the right time to prepare?

There is a misconception that estate planning is only for end of life events, but it is important for people of all ages to have a “plan”.  Estate planning is the establishment of a plan for health care decisions and financial decisions during your lifetime, as well as creating a Last Will and Testament to carry out your specific wishes at the time of your passing.  This may include selecting a Guardian(s) for your minor child(ren), naming an Executor, paying your debts and dividing your assets.


It is important to select an agent or agents for whom you trust to carry out your wishes both medically and financially.  The importance of estate planning documents is to have them in place prior to an event where you are unable to make decisions on your own.  For example, you are in an automobile accident and require a length stay at the hospital.  Your bills, daily banking needs, and financial matters still require your attention.  By naming a trusted agent(s) he or she is able to perform day to day transactions to maintain your finances when you are unable to.


We invite you to contact our office to schedule an appointment to discuss your individual estate planning needs and establish a “plan” unique to those specific needs. 


Ohio’s NEW Expungement/Sealing the Record Law

A new Ohio Law could allow someone with up to five felonies a chance to have their record sealed.

A new Ohio law expungement law that went into effect at the end of 2018 could allow someone with up to five felonies a chance to seal their criminal record. The change comes into effect as a result of the opioid epidemic to give those convicted of multiple felonies a chance at a clean slate.

The law allows someone convicted of first, second, or third degree felonies an opportunity to expunge/seal their record. Under the old law, people with up to two misdemeanors and no felonies could make a request. However, the new law gives people with certain felonies the opportunity to pay a small filing fee and petition the court for expungement/ sealing of their record.

If successful, he or she would not have to admit to their past crime on a job application and their record would not be available to the public. However, restrictions exist regarding the type of crime committed and the length of time required to pass before applying.

To find out more information and to learn of the time restrictions for requesting an expungement please contact our office!

Divorce and Marital Property - What will happen to my property if I get a divorce?

Are you worried about what will happen to your belongings if you get a divorce? Will you get to keep the ring your grandmother gave to you? What will happen to the TV you bought last year? What about the car?

The main thing you need to know is the difference between martial and separate property. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property in a divorce must be divided in a fair and equitable way. Marital property is property acquired by the couple during the period of the date of marriage through the final hearing of a legal separation or divorce action.  On the other hand, non-marital property or separate property does not follow the above rule and belongs to only you (Ohio Revised Code 3105.171).

Separate Property is defined as:

  • an inheritance by one spouse by bequest, devise, or descent during the course of the marriage

  • property that was acquired by one spouse prior to the date of the marriage

  • passive income and appreciation acquired from separate property by one spouse during the marriage

  • property acquired by one spouse after a decree of legal separation

  • property that is excluded from the couple's marital property by a valid prenuptial agreement

  • compensation to one spouse for that spouse's personal injury, except for loss of earnings during the marriage and compensation for expenses paid from marital assets, and

  • any gift of property that is made after the date of the marriage and that is proven by clear and convincing evidence to have been given to only one spouse.

Marital Property is defined as:

  • all real and personal property currently owned by either spouse or both, and that either or both acquired during the marriage (this includes retirement benefits)

  • any interest of either spouse or both in any real or personal property, and that either or both acquired during the marriage (again, this includes retirement benefits)

  • all income and appreciation on either spouse's separate property, due to the labor, financial, or in-kind contribution of either or both of the spouses that occurred during the marriage (unless an exception applies), and

  • participant accounts in state and municipal deferred compensation plans, to the extent set forth in the applicable statute.

To further understand how property is divided it is helpful to understand the differences between the following:

                Real Property: Real property includes land itself and any buildings and other improvements attached to the land. Real property can’t be moved.

                Personal Property:  Personal property is anything besides land that is subject to ownership. Unlike Real property, Personal property is moveable. Further, there are two types of personal        property: tangible and intangible property

   Tangible: Tangible property can be physically handled such as:

furniture, jewelry, clothes, etc.

    Intangible: Intangible property is property that cannot be physically handled. This includes:

checking and savings accounts, stocks, trust fund accounts, etc.


By: Stephanie Lessard Harris, Attorney at Law

Bankruptcy - Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of bankruptcy?

Filing for Bankruptcy is meant to provide individuals in financial distress some relief and a chance to start over. It is a legal procedure to discharge debt that one who will not be able to repay the debts or does not currently have the means to repay the debts.

The two most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

  • Chapter 7: With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are not responsible for paying back the debt owed.

  • Chapter 13: With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are required to pay back a portion of the debts that you own through a debt repayment plan.

Will I lose all of my property if I file for Bankruptcy including my house and car?

You do not lose all of your property when filing for bankruptcy. There are bankruptcy exemptions that prevent bankruptcy trustees from seizing certain property even if you file bankruptcy. Depending on the specific exemptions, you may be able to keep your house, car, clothing, jewelry and other belongings even if you file for bankruptcy.

Can I get fired from my job if I file for bankruptcy?

No. Your employers cannot discriminate against you for filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws protect you against this kind of discrimination.

Will filing for bankruptcy get rid of all my debt?

No. Filing for bankruptcy will not eliminate all your debts. Some examples of debts that will not be eliminated are: some taxes, student loans, alimony and child support.

How long will filing for bankruptcy stay on my credit report?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for ten (10) years and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven (7) years.

By: Stephanie Lessard Harris, Attorney at Law

Common Myth #3: The Magical Age

When does a child reach an age to have certain rights?  When can a child be “emancipated” and make decisions for him/herself. Some people say 12 or 13 and some say 16. 

               Neither is correct.

               The truth is that there is no magical age for a minor to make decisions for him or herself.  When people talk about that magical age, they imagine a golden age in which a minor is suddenly enough of an adult that he/she can tell a court, “I want to live with Mom” or “I want to live with Dad” and the court will make it so, but Ohio does not have such a rule. 

               There is no magical age until age 18, when the minor becomes an adult.  Until age 18, the minor is bound by any court-issued agreement concerning him/her , and so are his/her parents.  If Mom has custody of the kid, the kid does not get to demand of the court, “I don’t want to live with her anymore” just because he’s turned 13 or 15 or 16.  It will take more than just this idea of a magical age to change a custody determination. 

               When a minor reaches age 18, he/she is no longer considered a minor.  At that point, he/she can make his/her own decisions and live where he/she chooses—but not before then.

By: Alexandra E. Winters, Attorney at Law

Common Myth #2: I Can Always Just Drop the Charges, The Criminal Case Will Go Away, and We Don't Need to Go to Court

So one party calls the cops after an argument and then they feel remorse later on and want to drop the charges.  They are then astonished to find that there is now a case that looks something like: “State of Ohio vs. John Doe.”  “Wait,” they say, “We didn’t want that!  We’ve made up, we came to an understanding, I want to drop the charges!”  A lot of people think that they can do that and then they won’t have to go to court.

It doesn’t work like that.  You’ll notice, it isn’t you who is the complainant.  It is the State of Ohio.  That means you can’t just “drop the charges”.  The minute the police came to your door, the State became involved and a criminal case was born.  The fact that one of you wants to drop the charges isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference anymore. 

There will be a court date for the defendant and the defendant needs to go, because otherwise he or she is likely facing a warrant for arrest.  Explaining that “It’s all okay now” or “I just wanted to teach him/her a lesson” will not get you out of it.   Go to court!

There will also be some kind of consequence for the crime—it might not be jail time or anything so severe, but this isn’t going to just vanish either and some sort of penalty will be imposed.  This is one reason why it’s important to seek representation by an attorney, because an attorney can advise you on your options in this situation.

    By: Alexandra E. Winters, Attorney at Law 

Common Myth #1: The 3-Day Right of Rescission

              Many people believe that if they sign a contract or buy something from a store, they have three days to change their minds and get out of that contract or return that item.  Unfortunately, that’s not quite true, and relying on this common myth can get you into trouble.

               In Ohio, there is no overall right to rescind or cancel a service or purchased good. Cancellation rights are given to consumers only for certain types of contracts.  Three day cancellation periods are granted to consumers in:

1)      Prepaid entertainment contracts

2)      Door-to-door sales

3)      Home equity loans and mortgage refinancing plans

4)      Credit/debt counseling services

               Longer cancellation periods are given for hearing aid sales (30 days), telemarketing sales (7 days), and business opportunity ventures (5 days). 

               It’s important to think carefully before signing a contract or spending thousands of dollars on an item.  Depending on the type of contract or item, you may not be able to change your mind later. 

              By: Alexandra E. Winters, Attorney at Law

               The information provided by this website is not intended to provide legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client privilege or relationship. This website contains promotional and informational material only. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.