Changes in the Spousal Support Tax Laws and What this could mean for you.

The divorce attorneys at Spitler Huffman law firm have substantial experience representing clients in family law.  Located in Bowling Green and Rossford, Ohio we are dedicated to serving clients in Northwest Ohio including Wood, Henry, Hancock, and Sandusky Counties.  If you live in Bowling Green, Findlay, Perrysburg, Napoleon, Port Clinton, Fremont, Rossford, or other areas in Northwest Ohio and need assistance with a divorce or dissolution, contact us today.

Since the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) in December of 2017, substantial changes have been made to the application of Ohio’s spousal support that are important for families to consider when making the difficult choice to separate. 

First, it is important to note that TCJA applies to domestic relations matters (i.e., divorce and dissolution proceedings) that conclude on or after January 1, 2019.  Second, it is important to be aware that a person paying spousal support pursuant to an order that was issued on or after January 1, 2019 may no longer deduct that payment from their individual income taxes.  Similarly, and equally important to know, is that the TCJA no longer requires the receiving spouse to claim that income.  Finally, given the unique issues in every domestic relation matter it is important to know your options.

Please give our office a call with any questions or to discuss your personal situation.

IRS Circular 230 Statement Applicable: To Tax Advice, If Any, Contained In This Communication

Treasury Regulations require us to inform you that neither you nor any other recipient may use any tax advice in this communication to avoid any penalty that may be imposed under federal tax law.  To obtain penalty protection, the new Regulations require attorneys, accountants and other tax advisors to perform increased due diligence to verify all relevant facts and to format the written tax advice in a lengthy number of separately enumerated sections with numerous disclosures.  If you would like us to prepare written tax advice designed to provide penalty protection, please contact us and we will be pleased to discuss the matter with you in more detail.

Updates to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Income Limits and Exemptions

The bankruptcy attorneys at Spitler Huffman law firm have substantial experience representing clients in bankruptcy.  Located in Bowling Green and Rossford, Ohio we are dedicated to serving clients in Northwest Ohio including Wood, Henry, Hancock, and Sandusky Counties.  If you live in Bowling Green, Findlay, Perrysburg, Napoleon, Port Clinton, Fremont, Rossford, or other areas in Northwest Ohio and need bankruptcy assistance, contact us today.

As of November 1, 2018 there have been several updates to the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Income Limits and Exemptions.

Ohio Income limits (after 11/1/2018);

1 Earner 2 People 3 People 4 people
Ohio $48,441.00 $60,822.00 $73,182.00 $87,321.00

Ohio Income Limits (Before 11/1/2018):

1 Earner 2 People 3 People 4 people
Ohio $48,596.00 $60,834.00 $70,529.00 $85,294.00

Wood County Housing and Utility Allowance** (After 11/1/2018);

1 Person 2 People 3 People
Utilities Mortgage/Rent Utilities Mortgage/Rent Utilities Mortgage/Rent
$491 $890 $576 $1,046 $607 $1,102
4 People 5 or More
Utilities Mortgage/Rent Utilities Mortgage/Rent
$677 $1,229 $688 $1,248

** Exceptions Apply; Please seek the advice of counsel for more detailed information.

Public Transportation Expense Limit  $178

Vehicle Operating Costs

1 Car 2 Cars
$196 $392

Vehicle Ownership Costs

1 Car 2 Cars
$497 $994

If you think Bankruptcy may be in your best interest, call us today for a free consultation.

-Posted by LAF

Is There Facebook After Death?

The estate and probate attorneys at Spitler Huffman law firm have substantial experience representing clients in estate and probate matters.  Located in Bowling Green and Rossford, Ohio we are dedicated to serving clients in Northwest Ohio including Wood, Henry, Hancock, and Sandusky Counties.  If you live in Bowling Green, Findlay, Perrysburg, Napoleon, Port Clinton, Fremont, Rossford, or other areas in Northwest Ohio and need estate and probate assistance, contact us today.

In an era where “it isn’t official until it’s posted on Facebook,” what happens to our profiles when we die?

With Facebook reporting that it has over 1.7 billion “active” users (or users that have logged in at some point within the last 30 days), about a quarter of the world is on Facebook every month.  With so many users, a few are bound to pass away every so often.

For the planners out there- there are options.  In response to The Inevitable, Facebook has put in place methods for a user to dictate the terms of your account prior to death.

Before Death:

Facebook gives users three options for their accounts after death- 1. Create a “Memorialized” account, 2. Deactivate upon death, or 3. Do nothing.

If you choose a Memorialized account, once Facebook is notified of your death you basically get a page where people can continue to post on a special memorial timeline.  If you choose, you can name a “legacy contact” to administer the page on your behalf, but your legacy will be limited to the memorial page.

If you choose to set your account to deactivate upon death, Facebook simply deactivates your account once it receives a death notice.

If a User Does Nothing:

That just leaves the 90 plus percent of users who have not designated any action for their Facebook account.  If this happens, your family or the fiduciary of your estate may request that your account be deactivated, or may seek a court order to shut down your account.

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way: 

Most of us write our 19 different passwords down on 19 different pieces of paper that we can never find later.  News flash- if you can’t find your passwords, your next of kin won’t be able to either.  As for legal intervention- laws so far have been slow to catch up with the problem of fiduciary access to the online records of a deceased person.  Some states, like Oklahoma and Idaho, have taken steps to authorize fiduciary access to online accounts.  However, if you live elsewhere, maybe it’s time to get more organized and make a plan which includes your digital information.

Though planning for your digital estate may seem trivial in comparison to estate planning for your health or financial future, the large and ever-increasing role of technology in our day to day financial and social lives means digital records may need to be addressed with your estate planner.  Accurate records will help your loved ones efficiently handle your estate.  And that’s something everybody likes.

-Posted by CCI

Charges Dropped Against Rossford Teacher

The criminal attorneys at Spitler Huffman law firm have substantial experience representing clients in criminal law.  Located in Bowling Green and Rossford, Ohio we are dedicated to serving clients in Northwest Ohio including Wood, Henry, Hancock, and Sandusky Counties.  If you live in Bowling Green, Findlay, Perrysburg, Napoleon, Port Clinton, Fremont, Rossford, or other areas in Northwest Ohio and need criminal law assistance, contact us today.

On August 13th, 2016, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey found Perrysburg resident Todd Long guilty after Mr. Long attempted to frame a Rossford Middle School teacher for drug trafficking.

Bowling Green Attorney Steve Spitler represented the teacher and assisted in having all charges dropped against his client.  Mr. Spitler was quoted in the case by the Toledo Blade and a link to the full article can be found here:

-Posted by CCI

Ayersville Water & Sewer District Recovers Substantial Share of Missing Funds

Defiance, Ohio- The Ayersville Water & Sewer District has recovered a substantial share of funds which, according to the State Auditor, were apparently taken by a former District employee.  The District, in collaboration with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, recovered roughly 80% of the misappropriated funds.  A link to the Crescent-News article on the investigation and recovery can be found here:

-Posted by CCI

Trihalomethanes: You Don’t Have Cholera (But You Might Still Have a Problem)

When was the last time you missed work because you had cholera?  Never, because for the last hundred years or so, U.S. water distribution systems have been disinfecting drinking water by adding chlorine.

Chlorine itself is a cheap and effective killer of bacteria and viruses which would otherwise find their way into our drinking water, which makes it one of the biggest public health breakthroughs of the 20th century.  It does, however, have a drawback- as chlorine disinfects, it breaks down as it comes into contact with other compounds in the water.

Things you can’t pronounce may still be bad for you:

The results of this breakdown are carcinogenic trihalomethanes (or “THMs”) and haloacetic acids (“HAA5”).  People exposed to high concentrations over long periods of time have an increased risk of cancer and liver, kidney, and nerve damage.  This danger has led the EPA to use its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to set “maximum contaminant levels” (commonly referred to as “MCLs”) for these compounds.

Rural water systems are more likely to have these issues with the Ohio EPA:

In Ohio, many rural water systems exceed their MCLs for these compounds and end up getting hit with EPA findings and orders to lower their levels.  Why rural systems?  Because the water has fewer end users and travels longer distances, the chlorine stays in the pipe longer and has more time to break down.

In response, rural systems tend to do at least one of four things- they 1. flush (dump water out at an end point to increase the volume of water moving through the system in order to get fresher water faster), 2. they aerate (which removes the THMs), 3. they treat with activated carbon (which removes both THMs and HAA5s), 4. they change their input system (e.g. the amount of chlorine used or location of its addition or the treatment method itself).

If you are a customer or operator of a rural water system, then at some point you are going to hear about chlorine disinfection byproducts.  It may not be as exciting or newsworthy as lead in Flint, Michigan’s water supply (by the way Flint also exceeded safe THM levels) but it’s certainly an ongoing challenge for water distribution systems in rural Ohio.

But hey- good news- at least you don’t have cholera.  So there’s that.

For some good summary guidance on the subject, the EPA’s fact sheet is below:

-Posted by CCI

Henry County Regional Water & Sewer Recovers Over $200,000 in Water Tower Settlement

Henry County Regional Water & Sewer District recently recovered over $200,000 to resolve a contractual dispute with a construction company.  Spitler Huffman, LLP’s Christopher Frasor represented the District in the dispute.

Mr. Frasor presented the check to the Board at the District’s regular meeting on May 3rd, 2017.  As part of the settlement, the District also is entitled to retain roughly $180,000 in funds that were initially earmarked for the project.

A link to the Northwest Signal’s blurb on the matter can be found here:

-Posted By CCI

Mega Mistakes: Lawsuits Against the Ohio Lottery Commission

Big Ticket Items:

If you are like roughly 50% of the rest of Americans, then “winning the lottery” is a cornerstone of your retirement strategy.  Of the $70 billion or so worth of tickets sold in 2016 (Americans spend more on lotto tickets every year than the individual GDPs of 118 countries), $2.7 billion is spent by Ohioans.  That’s a lot of scratch-offs.  And yes, you read that right, Americans spend more on the lottery than MOST countries produce.

Who Gets a Share in the Office Pool?

With so much money flying around, it seems like there would be a lot of litigation involving lottery claims.  Well- there is.  Sort of.  Most lawsuits seem to involve office pools with a set of facts similar to the following:

Jim, Bob, and Jane all work at Company X.  The three have been in an office lotto pool for years.  One day, Jim finds out he bought the winning ticket, but only Jim and Jane chipped in money that day since Bob was out sick. Jim and Jane claim the prize and leave Bob out of it.  Bob sues Jim and Jane on the grounds that he should be entitled to a share of the award.

Under Ohio law, these kinds of suits can be brought in your local county court and the judge or jury can decide who the rightful prize-winner/s are based on past conduct, written agreements or records, etc.   Yes- this does happen, and people sue each other over it:

Suing the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC)

However, it is exceedingly rare for lottery players to sue the Ohio Lottery Commission, but it does happen.  In fact, since 1975, only 88 lawsuits have been brought against the OLC, and many of those suits were unrelated to gaming.  These suits must be brought in the Ohio Court of Claims, a special court set up specifically to handle claims against Ohio’s State agencies.

Here is a list of the more interesting cases from the last twenty years or so:

Demetriades v. OLC, 2017-00705

Plaintiff purchased ticket and wins $500, then promptly loses ticket.  In an incredible example of selectively optimistic memory, plaintiff remembers that prize was worth $500,000 and sues the OLC.  OLC is able to recreate records of ticket and proves that it was only worth $500.  Plaintiff still able to purchase 500 items from the Dollar Tree.

Estate of Keefe v. OLC, 2017-10035

Plaintiff wins 5 million dollar jackpot.  Clerical error on OLC’s claim form states that the prize was 6 million dollars.  Plaintiff paid 5 million, sues OLC for an additional 1 million on theory that claim form signed by OLC employee amounted to a contract.  Result?  OLC wins, contract forms at time of purchase of ticket and ticket holder is only entitled to the actual prize amount certified by the director of the OLC.  Winner died during the case, apparently heartbroken for only having 5 million dollars instead of 6 million.

Maffett v. OLC, 2004-09967; Freiling, et al v. OLC, 2003-11275; Constani et al v. OLC, 2003-11615

These three cases were filed shortly after a widespread ticket misprint made apparent winners in the amounts of $2,500, $50,000, and $2,000,000 respectively.

All three ticket buyers were denied their claims and offered a refund of their ticket price.  All three sued and lost for the same reason- misprinted tickets are invalid under Ohio law.  Not to worry, the OLC refunded the price of the ticket.  No word on whether any of them spent it on another ticket.

Dabaja v. OLC, et al., 2012-08567

Four people all claimed to have purchased a 2 million dollar winning ticket and submitted claim forms.  Plaintiff sues the OLC and his co-claimants, who happen to be his ex-wife and two of his family members, to be declared the winner (like Highlander, he believed there could be only one).

Other claimants fail to answer the lawsuit and Plaintiff settles the case and goes home with his lump sum payment (about $700,000).  Unclear if Thanksgiving was awkward at the Dabaja household.

Palmer et al., v. OLC, 2002-0778; ORC 3770.07(D)

Creditors had a court-ordered structured settlement agreement with a lotto winner which paid the creditors a percent of lottery annuity payments.   The OLC was aware of the structured settlement between the winner and the creditors.  Lotto winner defaulted on her payments to creditors and creditors sue OLC for failing to make payments directly to the creditors.

The result was judgment for the OLC- the rights of a prize winner are NOT assignable, garnishable, or attachable, unless by a court order for payment of child support or to an estate.  Because- it says so right in the statute.  A court can otherwise determine the rightful prize winner/s (for example, multiple claimants in an office pool), but courts are not entitled to assign a winner’s rights to anyone else once the winner is determined.  The creditors in this case happened to be lawyers, so of course no real harm was done.

Final Thoughts

What’s the lesson here?  There isn’t one, but as a legal concept “the lottery” is an interesting foray into contract formation.  Just remember- if you’re in an office pool, keep a record of your agreement and participants, and don’t tell off your boss before you get your prize money in hand. Also- think about hiring an accountant and a lawyer before you run off and buy that gold-plated jet ski.  Good luck!

-Posted By CCI