Estate Planning and Probate
The Key to Protecting your Legacy
You are a unique individual, therefore your Estate Plan will be unique to your needs and wants. What makes us different then online companies, besides the fact that we actually are attorneys and are licensed to give legal advice, is that 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 to occur when you can no longer make decisions. We provide guidance and help with those that struggle with the process of thinking about potential disability or passing. We then draft custom documents that suit you and help you with gifting or funding issues for Trusts, if that is part of your plan.
- Testamentary Trusts
- Irrevocable Trusts
- Special Need / Supplemental Need Trusts
- Safety Net Estate Trusts
- Advanced Healthcare Directives/ Living Wills
- Power of Attorneys (including limited, durable, medical, financial, standby guardians)
- Gifting Documentation
A well designed and executed estate plan can preserve assets, reduce inheritance taxes 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 (and a person that you did not choose). When you pass if you have nothing in place your family may overspend at your funeral or worse they will squabble over your assets, thus wasting them in litigation. Estate Planning is the process by which individuals ensure that their desires are carried out after they pass away. Good estate planning attempts to avoid conflict and ensure your assets go to whomever you desire and not what others want, avoid unnecessary probate costs and generate inheritance tax savings. In addition, we can also provide Agent and Executor services if you deem that in your best interest.
Probate and Estate Administration
Probate is the process where a deceased person’s assets and affairs are dealt with by the deceased person’s executor or administrator, with supervision and approval by the court. We look for every inheritance tax deduction and strategy allowed in order to maximize the funds that are distributed after all the debts of the estate are settled, and if necessary deal with any 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. We strive to provide excellent service from start to finish during the Probate and Estate Administration. We also attempt to help you with the grief and loss of loved ones. Please contact us so we can assist you.
- Executor’s and Administrator’s
- Loved one’s
Fees are determined on a case by case basis.
Current Pennsylvania inheritance tax rates can be found at:
Current Federal inheritance tax rates can be found at:
Great form for pre-planning your funeral/cremation:
Some basic concepts that are usually part of any estate plan are described below.
Power of Attorney
- Purpose of a Power of Attorney – Give another person the ability to make decisions as if they were you.
- Principal – is the person who gives the power.
- Agent -person who accepts duty to make decisions for the Principal.
- Decision making power typically given – real estate, personal property, business interests, bank access (including digital), stocks, mutual funds, IRA’s, gifting, taxes, hospital authorization, medical records and medical decision, emergency guardian of children and all other financial and medical decision making.
- 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.
- What is a Living Will – a prior written statement regarding your potential end of life healthcare decisions when you are unable to communicate your desires. You get to make advance healthcare decisions and communicate your wishes now for a time when you may not be able to. Additionally, you can appoint a decision maker who can speak for you for any nuanced issues.
- 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.
- These documents in Pennsylvania are not to be treated as a do not resuscitate order. That is a specific document created in consultation with your doctor, and is typically entered into if you are deemed a hospice eligible patient.
Will or a Trust
- 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.
- Establishing trusts for children or grandchildren: If a beneficiary is a minor 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.
- Revocable 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 eliminating the benefits of revocable trusts.
- Special need trusts or supplemental needs trusts: They are appropriate if you have a child or loved one with special needs. We can help you help them with your assets and preserve their benefits. We understand the need to protect your child after you are gone so that the funds are used appropriately and to keep your child safe and as productive/happy as possible.
- Amounts change yearly as to what you can do regarding gifting. Let us help you navigate this. It is a great way to avoid inheritance tax but we all must be cognizant of governmental look-back periods for medical assistance eligibility.
- 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 instead of having your liquid assets be consumed by a nursing home. Many times gifting goes hand-in-hand with Elder Law planning.
Irrevocable Burial Reserve and Funeral Arrangements
- Purpose of Irrevocable Burial Reserve. I recommend around $15,000.00 reserve to cover funeral costs etc. This number typically goes up yearly depending on the county you reside in. It’s a good idea to buy now or set aside funds to pay for your passing. 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. I have found this to be the greatest gift you can give your loved ones, because it is traumatic to do this after someone passes. It provides a great relief as they know what you wanted.
- Funeral Arrangement’s are not part of an estate plan per se, therefore write down what you want done for a funeral and let someone besides your spouse know what you want done. Whether it is cremation, funeral pyre, bagpipes, or the ceremony’s conducted in Klingon, etc., you should prepare a letter as to what you want and place it in a secure but accessible location. If you want an obituary you may want to write it and put money aside to pay for it, too.
We are here to help. Give us a call.