Estate planning is much more than just simply having a will. It includes power of attorneys, health care directives, trusts, planning for medicaid, and several other areas that affect you and your beneficiaries lives. Having the necessary estate planning documents can help avoid intestate succession, Pennsylvania inheritance tax, estate tax, probate, and array of challenging issues that could arise if you do not have these estate documents. Another goal of estate planning is to ensure your affairs are appropriately handled.
Our goal in estate planning is to minimize paying tax and legal costs and maximizing your confidence in knowing that your affairs are planned for after you are gone. Having a well thought out and set strategy for your estate not only benefits you but also your children, grandchildren, and other family members.
Estate Planning is an act of love.
A will is probably the most familiar tool used in estate planning. In order to have a valid will in Pennsylvania, a person must follow strict guidelines that are set forth in Title 20 "Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries" Chapter 25 "Wills". A will can be made by any person 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind. A will must be in writing and shall be signed by the testator (the person who the will is for) at the end of the document in order to be valid.
A will must go through a process called Probate. In Pennsylvania, probate is the legal process that happens after a person (the "decedent") dies, regardless of whether the person died with or without a will. If the decedent has a will, then the property is distributed according to the will. Probate will take place in Pennsylvania in the county where the decedent lived at the time of the death or if the decedent lives outside of the state of Pennsylvania, it will take place at the county were the property is located.
If a person does not have a will, the estate will be intestate. Simply put, intestate means the person does not have a will and intestate succession will occur. Intestate succession has very strict and complex rules that must be followed. In order to fully understand what takes place during intestate succession please contact our offices for a free 30 minute consultation. Intestate estates should be avoided if possible. They can potentially cost much more in tax and legal fees due to their complex natures.
For more information click here: Check out our Article on Wills
What is a trust? While the legal concept of a “trust” dates back to medieval England, the modern view as defined by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania is: "a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, subjecting the person by whom the title to the property is held to equitable duties to deal with the property for the benefit of another person." While this is the technical definition of a trust, in short a trust is a complex legal document used as substitute for a will and therefore potentially avoiding probate which can save time and costs. Trusts are not always right for everyone. You should consult our offices before deciding whether or not to have a trust.
Trusts can be used for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include managing and conserving property, serving as a will substitute, assuring privacy, minimizing probate costs, avoiding ancillary probate, tax planning, providing support for special needs individuals, providing asset protection, achieving charitable purposes, and taking care of pets.
For more information on trusts please contact our offices.
Power of Attorney (Financial & Health Care):
A power of attorney is a legal document that creates an agency relationship between the principal (the person granting the power) and the agent (the person receiving the power). POAs can sometimes refer the agent as the "attorney-in-fact". General rules of agency apple to the rights and duties among the principal, agent, and third parties who rely on the power of attorney. With a properly drafted power of attorney document, a principal and agent can deal with a future incapacity as well as other of life's unforeseen events.
A well drafted POA can be used by the agent to help the principal pay bills and make medical decisions if the principal becomes ill and unable to handle these matters.
There are several types of Powers of Attorney. Financial and Health Care Powers of Attorney are two types of POAs that are utilized in estate planning. Additionally, there are general verse limited powers of attorney.
Our office will make sure that you understand the powers that you are granting and the duties that the agent has toward the principal.
Please contact us in you are interested in learning more!
A living will is a document by which a competent adult can control decisions relating to his or her own medical care if he or she has an end stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious. In order to fully understand what a living will includes, please reach out to our offices for a free 30-minute consultation.
If you have read through the above information and believe you want to learn more or want to begin your estate planning, you can reach out to us to schedule your first consultation with Attorney Colt A. McKelvey. Taking the first step is always the hardest, but we believe you will not regret having a estate plan.