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Estate Planning and Probate

THE KEY TO PROTECTING YOUR LEGACY

Your needs and Your Process.

You are a unique individual or couple and therefore your Estate Plan will possibly be unique too. What makes us different then online companies, besides the fact that we are attorneys and can give legal advice, and what we think makes us better, is we sit down and interview you as to what you want to accomplish. We educate and answer questions. We find out who you are, what you have and what you want. We provide guidance and help with those that struggle with the process of thinking about disability or passing. We set up a process that fits your needs. We then draft custom documents that suit you.

We draft:

  • Wills
  • Testamentary Trusts
  • Irrevocable Trust
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Safety Net Estate Trusts
  • Specialized Trusts
  • Advanced Healthcare Directives/ Living Wills
  • Power of Attorneys (including limited, durable, medical, financial, guardians)
Estate Planning

Estate Planning
A well designed and executed estate plan can preserve assets and minimize or eliminate the burdens placed on surviving family members and loved ones. It is a great gift to give your children or loved one’s. Without an estate plan you may need to have a guardian appointed over your affairs while you are alive but cannot make decisions (that you did not choose). And when you pass if you have nothing in place your family may overspend at your funeral or worse they will squabble over your assets wasting the resources you worked so hard to preserve. Estate Planning is the process by which individuals ensure that their desires are carried out when they cannot while they are alive and how to distribute property after death. Good estate planning attempts to avoid conflict amongst your loved ones, avoid unnecessary probate costs and generate inheritance tax savings. It requires an analysis of your current and future financial situations.

Probate and Administration of a Will or non-Will

Probate is the process where a deceased person’s assets and affairs are dealt with by the deceased person’s executor or administrator. We are experts at providing excellent representation at a fair price. We look for every inheritance tax deduction and strategy we can take in order to maximize the funds that are distributed after all the debts of the estate are settled, and if necessary deal with an litigation that presents itself. The Probate process can be complex and time consuming. Our Firm can help relieve you of the burdens associated with this process, inheritance taxes, accounting and litigation or dispute. Whether you require advice or need someone to handle the entire estate from start to finish, our Firm can provide you with the necessary legal services. Please contact us so we can assist you.

We represent:

  • Beneficiaries
  • Creditors
  • Executor’s and Administrator’s
  • Loved one’s

In Pennsylvania there currently is no statutory rate for compensation for attorneys or personal representatives. Fees are determined on a case by case basis. Initial consultation is free.

Current Pennsylvania inheritance tax rates can be found at:

http://www.revenue.pa.gov/GeneralTaxInformation/Tax%20Types%20and%20Information/Pages/Inheritance-Tax.aspx#.VTfotdN0wps

Current Federal inheritance tax rates can be found at:

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estate-Tax

Great form for pre planning your funeral/cremation:

Some basic concepts that are usually part of any estate plan are described below.

  1. Power of Attorney
    1. Purpose of a Power of Attorney – Give another person the ability to make decisions as if they were you.
    2. Principal – is the person who gives the power.
    3. Agent -person who accepts duty to make decisions for the Principal.
    4. Decision making power typically given – business interests, stocks, mutual funds, IRA’s, gifting, taxes, hospital authorization, medical records and medical decision maker, emergency guardian of children and all other financial and medical decision making.
    5. Incapacity- Our POA’s survive the incapacity of the Principal so the Agent can make all Medical and Financial decisions necessary.
    6. Durability: In PA, POA’s are durable by law, which means the POA will last until you pass away or you revoke the POA or if you set forth a specific termination date in the Original POA.
  2. Living Will
    1. What is a Living Will – a written statement regarding your future end of life healthcare decision making. You get to make advance healthcare decisions and communicate your wishes now for a time when you will not be able to. Additionally, you can appoint a decision maker who can speak for you.
    2. When is a Living Will enforceable – It is only enforceable if you are incapacitated and in a permanent vegetative state or you are terminally ill. (Two medical opinions are required that you are in one of these states before the document becomes enforceable). If you are pregnant the living will may not apply.
    3. These documents in Pennsylvania are not to be treated as a do not resuscitate order. That is a specific document created by your doctor based on your decision or loved one in a special circumstance when you are at home or out of a hospital and you have a terminal illness that is untreatable or if you are in a permanent vegetative state. Many times this form is incorrectly
      interpreted and we discuss strategies to prevent the abuse of this powerful document. See http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=556980&mode=2
  3. Will or a Trust
    1. Asset distribution and protection are generally why people have these documents drafted. Typically they deal with who gets your assets after you pass away and how your estate is to be administered.
    2. Beneficiaries: you get to pick who gets your assets not the state.
    3. Establishing trusts for children or grandchildren: If Minors or you believe he, she or they will not be responsible with the funds until they mature to a certain age, then a trust may be something to consider in your will or establishing while you are alive.
    4. Living Trusts: There is a lot of talk about these to avoid probate. The truth is probate is inexpensive compared to a living trust in Pennsylvania in almost all circumstances. The only time I believe living trusts are worth anything is if you have property in more than one state or if you know you or a loved one is going to have a mental or physical disability now or in the future. Many new requirements have been passed by the Pennsylvania legislature
      established burdens on the trustee in regards to notice and disclosure to potential beneficiaries. Living Trusts do not avoid state inheritance tax in Pennsylvania.
    5. Special need trusts or supplemental needs trust: Helps you protect your assets for future generations and maximize government benefits. In my opinion, they are appropriate if you have more than $150,000 dollars in assets. Understand the government is creating new rules everyday in this area of the law. If you need a special trust it will be very specific to your needs and desires and requires individual consultation over a period of time.
  4. Gifting
    1. Amounts to give to avoid taxes: You can give away $14,000.00 a year ( and you have given less then $1,000,000 during your lifetime) per donee without tax consequence. Moreover you see the person or organization enjoy the funds and they most likely need it now more than later.
    2. To meet financial eligibility limits and drafting documentary evidence regarding gifting please see us. Remember by giving early in life you may help your self qualify for governmental services and have your liquid assets not consumed by nursing home costs. There are limitations and exceptions, including, a five (5) year look back period.
  5. Transfer of Real Estate/Home/Business
    1. Keep nursing homes or medical assistance from taking your real estate property. You must do this prior to the look back periods. Ways to do it:
    2. Give a Life Estate to someone
    3. Deed Transfer of your property to a loved one
    4. Transfer family business so the asset is not counted against you for governmental benefits.
  6. Irrevocable Burial Reserve and Funeral Arrangements
    1. Purpose of Irrevocable Burial Reserve. I recommend a $6,000 to $12,000.00 reserve to cover funeral costs etc. Good idea to buy now or set aside funds to pay for your passing (it most likely will occur). Or go to a funeral home that does pre planning and pre paying with an annuity or a fund that is insured if the funeral home goes out of business.
    2. Funeral Arrangement’s are not part of an estate plan per se,therefore write down what you want done at your funeral and let someone besides your spouse know what you want done. Whether it is cremation, funeral pyre, bagpipes, or the ceremony conducted in Klingon, etc., you should prepare a letter as to what you want and place it in an easily accessible location. If you want an obituary you can write it and put money aside to pay for it, too. A form above is printable to fill out if need one.

Whatever your Estate Planning/Estate Administration needs are, Stone, Wiley & Linsenbach with its 95 years of combined experience can provide expert assistance and advice. We will work with you to create the perfect plan that fits
your personality and situation. Please contact us to set up an appointment to discuss your needs.