You Need a Will at Any Age

By: Hannah Travis, Law Clerk and current law student at Capital University and Nolan Flowers, Associate Attorney at Dagger Law

WillThose of us in our early twenties, or even early thirties and forties, may wonder why we need a will. We assume that wills are “something older people get.” I’m going to tell you why it is important to not only have just a will, but also a power of attorney and healthcare directives, even if you believe you are not old enough to have these important documents.

One of the best ways in understanding the reasons for having estate documents is understanding the differences between them and how effective they can be when used properly in conjunction with one another. First, let us distinguish the three.

In its simplest form, a will is a document that allows a person to identify who will receive their assets after death. These beneficiaries can be spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, or even charities. A will can also allow parents to appoint a guardian for the minor child(ren), should they ever need guardianship.

A power of attorney is a document that allows an individual to appoint someone to serve as their attorney in fact, or “agent.” This means the appointed individual may handle financial, legal, business, or other matters on behalf of the principal in the event the principal is unable to act on their own behalf. The goal of the agent is to handle affairs in harmony as to how the principal most likely would have if it were not for their inability to do so.

Healthcare directives are generally made up of two independent documents: (1) healthcare power of attorney and (2) living will. A healthcare power of attorney provides an “agent” to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal in the event they are unable to do so. Although the healthcare power of attorney may seem similar to a power of attorney, the two documents do not overlap as far as authority provided to the agent, so this is why it is important to have both. A living will is a document where the principal dictates their end-of-life medical care in the event they would become unable to do so.

Now let us discuss why it is important to have each of these documents. It is important to have a will because this document allows you to expressly put your wishes in writing. Maybe you want one child to receive your house and car, but your other child to receive the rest of your assets, or maybe you want one person to get all your real and personal property. Ultimately, a will (or even a trust) will allow you to dictate how your assets will be distributed once you have passed. If you do not have a will prepared, Ohio’s Intestacy Succession laws will dictate how your assets get distributed. This may not align with your wishes. A will can also be a wonderful tool for those with minor children because wills allow you to identify guardianship provisions for them.

A power of attorney is important because you are appointing someone you trust to make decisions for you that may have both legal and financial implications. Having a person who can make these decisions is not only beneficial to the principal, but also to their loved ones.

Healthcare directives are similarly important because you are appointing someone to make choices regarding your health and care, which ultimately could mean appointing someone who decides when the time is right.

All these documents, when prepared correctly to adequately represent the intentions and wishes of an individual, can aid in reducing the stress and emotion that usually arises when these documents are acted upon. Additionally, a well-prepared estate plan may help reduce legal costs after the passing of a loved one.

The attorneys at Dagger Law place clients’ needs first, as clients are our top priority. They take great care in compiling these documents, as they truly care about you and your loved ones.

Thank you, Jim Miller

In the Preamble of the Dagger Law Partnership Agreement is a history of the origins of the firm: “The Partnership traces its origins through the history of two law practices started in Lancaster, Ohio by J.W. Deffenbaugh, Esq in 1902 and William C. Dagger, Esq. in 1946. The two partnerships merged on January 1, 1986.” Attorney J.W. Deffenbaugh was Jim Miller’s grandfather, and since 1902 Lancaster and Fairfield County have been blessed to have had three generations of the Miller family as prominent lawyers within our community. Eminently respected by all, they were dedicated to making our community a better place to live and raise a family.

The effect that the Miller family has had cannot be measured. For the first time in 118 years that chain of excellence, role modeled by the Miller family lawyers, is broken.

Our partner and friend, Jim Miller, passed away at 2 p.m. July 15, 2020. Dagger Law mourns the loss of a great man and honors his legacy by carrying on the tradition of outstanding attorneys dedicated to the community and our clients; as Jim Miller always did.

Due to COVID-19 a traditional funeral is not possible, but there will be a drive-by burial recognition on Saturday, July 18 at 11 a.m. at Forest Rose Cemetery at the Miller Family plot, which is located at the top left side of the cemetery by Marks Ave.

Connecting with People

By: Hannah Travis, Law Clerk and current law student at Capital University 

Hannah Travis playing golf for OU AthensAs someone who has golfed since I was six years old, I have always connected with people through the game. At my young age, I participated in the First Tee program. This program is built on nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment—all characteristics I believe the attorneys at Dagger Law possess.

I learned so early in life how important networking and connecting with others is. I learned about good eye-contact, how to properly shake someone’s hand, and being engaged in conversations with others. I believe my people skills have helped me get to where I am today. Through golf, I met Partner Jeff Spangler, as well as others who work for the county in law and law enforcement. Through conversation and friendliness, these people asked about my life—where I was attending college, what my major was, what I wanted to do in life. Being from a small town and wanting to stay in the area long term sparked interest in these people and landed me a job at Dagger as a summer law clerk.

I think there is a certain prejudice that lawyers, doctors, and other professionals seem to have surrounding them. In my first year of law school, my Contracts II professor had the class complete a group activity. She first asked us to describe what people typically think of when they think of a lawyer. Several students raised their hands and gave answers such as crooks, rude, intimidating, and not genuine. She then asked what we would want a lawyer we hired to be like, to which students answered: friendly, helpful, caring, and kind. We then discussed how most lawyers are actually described as the way we answered the second question.

I find it very important to form opinions of others for yourself, not by what others say about them. Lawyers are highly educated individuals, but they are still people. They like sports, they have families, they exercise, they go out with friends, etc. just like everyone else. Throughout the week, and even sometimes on the weekends, they talk in “legal-ese” because they are mostly surrounded by other attorneys and judges. When talking to attorneys, I have found that if you do not understand something, just ask! They get used to a certain way of communicating at work and sometimes just forget to “change gears.”

In the legal field, I have also observed that talking to a Partner of a firm seems to be more “intimidating” than talking to other attorneys. At Dagger, this is not the case. As a law clerk, I do a lot of work for Partner Jeff Spangler. He is extremely approachable and willing to answer any questions I have. He is thorough in explaining facts of a case to me or in what work I need to do. He treats everyone in the office with respect, and he gets his work done just like everyone else.

I have also had a chance to shadow Katie Cornelius-Blume, another attorney at Dagger. I observed a meeting she had with a younger client, and she was extremely thorough in explaining the client’s rights to them. Katie is understanding and caring with her clients and wants to make sure they understand what she is explaining to them.

In the end, people will always remember how you treat them and make them feel, so make your first impression to others one you want them to remember for the better. I believe the attorneys at Dagger truly care about their clients and put forth their best work each and every day.

COVID-19 Hours of Operation and Precautions

Coronavirus **UPDATED 14 JULY, 2020**

For the protection and peace of mind of our clients, staff, and the community at large, Dagger Law has established an office policy to practice social distancing and to conducting business by phone and email based on the attorney’s discretion and safety of all involved. 

Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary for clients to visit our office in order to attend meetings, review and sign documents, or for depositions. In these instances, appointments will be coordinated through your attorney and specific guidance regarding the meeting will be provided so that the meeting can go smoothly and quickly. Though we are accepting unscheduled, in-person, visits we request that  every effort be made to set an appointment, the interests of public safety.

For your convenience, we do have a drop box, labeled “night drop” located in our rear parking lot on the left set of double doors as you look at the building. If you need to drop off a payment, or paperwork, we ask that you consider the use of this option to minimize any unnecessary social contact between clients and staff. We understand that not every packet of papers will fit in the slot, and that there may be times when you may have questions about your paperwork that may be answered before you hand them over to our attorneys and staff. If this is the case, we ask that you proceed to our main reception area located on the Main Street side of our offices. This reception area is staffed during working hours, and can assist clients with most questions. If you need a notary, our reception desk can also provide this service to you, quickly and safely.

We are not requiring the wearing of face masks by clients of the firm, but ask that you consider this option for the safety and protection of others, as recommended by the Governor of Ohio and the CDC. Dagger Law will be adhering to the new Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which uses four levels of Covid-19, public emergency, severity to determine what additional precautions might be necessary for the safe operation of our business. We encourage all clients and visitors to be aware of the current state of this advisory system before coming into our offices so that we can ensure that all parties are adequately protected. Some disposable masks may be available by request, as supplies last, for those clients who visit the firm in person. Staff and attorneys will wear face masks to the maximum extent possible, but may need to remove them in order to be heard clearly, or to have hard-of-hearing clients read lips. In these cases we will make every effort to institute the recommended six foot social distancing measures, if possible, in our office spaces and conference rooms.  

Thank you for your cooperation and assistance with our efforts to keep the community safe. It is our hope that by acting with caution now, we may return to a more normal state quickly.

Why Families With Children Need an Updated Will.

Who Needs a WillIt might be a logical statement to say that everyone would be better off with some planning for their estate. However, today we want to focus on the reasons that families with kids need to be planning ahead.

While nobody wants to sit down and think about what happens to their kids if they suddenly, and unexpectedly, die; there are many important reasons to ensure that there is a clear plan in place.

  • First of all, as a parent, we know you want what is best for your children. In your mind you probably already have ideas about whether you would want your kids to be raised by a friend, godparent, or your favorite aunt. In many cases the plan has been loosely developed and it takes little work to make it official with a legal document. Without a Will, the state has no way of knowing who you would trust to raise your kids, or how you want your children to receive your property. 
  • Second, nobody knows your children better than you do. While it is unlikely that the state would allow any harm to come to your children, it can’t know the particular needs that they might have. If the state might divide your property in an equitable manner, it may not account for your wish to help a child buy their first car, or assist a child with paying for college in your absence. These situations may not apply to your children equally, and only by establishing a will would you be able to ensure that these important items are taken into consideration. 
  • Finally, you may admire the way your aunt loves and dotes on your children, but perhaps your accountant brother would be a better person to manage the assets that your child may now inherit upon your death. A will would allow you to create some distinctions about who manages what aspects of your child’s life, until they become an adult. As with our second point, you may know the strengths of the potential guardians in a way that the probate court may not. 

We understand that you want what is best for your children. With some careful planning, today, you can ensure that your plans for your family can be protected even after an untimely death. It is hard to predict all the nuances that you might want to spell out in an estate plan. That is why Dagger Law recommends that you sit down with an attorney to ensure that your wishes and intentions are clearly defined, and allowed, under the law. We are here to help you protect your assets, and your children’s future. Call today.