Estate planning is not just for affluent individuals or families, every person who owns property needs to seriously think about what will happen to their estate when they pass. If you own property that you want to pass on to certain individuals or institutions, you need to plan ahead.
If you pass away without planning your estate, your home, personal effects, and money will be distributed by way of intestacy. To die intestate means your property will be divided among relatives, sometimes estranged relatives, using a strict formula. Intestacy law applies to every individual who dies without a will and it does not consider the needs of family members or any other individual.
To tailor an estate plan specifically for your needs, you should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney today. The attorneys of Herr Potts and Potts possess decades of experience working with clients to meet their estate planning needs and can help meet your estate planning needs as well. To schedule a confidential legal consultation call us at (610) 254-0114 or contact us online.
Executing a Will in Pennsylvania
There are various areas of estate planning a person should consider when distributing their property. Every person’s needs are unique in an estate planning situation and all bases must be covered to create a solid plan. In general, there are four main documents when meeting with a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney that an individual or family should consider when doing an estate plan.
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
A will is the foundation for most estate plans. A will is a legal document that everyone should sign to ensure that their wishes concerning their assets are carried out after they pass away. A will can include who you would like to be your executor, trustee or guardian, any trust provisions, and how to distribute your assets. An executor is a personal representative who collects the estate assets, pays off estate debts, and distributes your property to the beneficiaries named in your will. It may be wise to name an alternate executor to take over should any delays occur in the distribution of your estate.
Once your will is complete, it is a good idea to read it through and decide everything is exactly as you want it. It is also important to update your will after significant changes occur in your life, such as:
- Marriage or divorce
- Death of a beneficiary
- Asset growth
- Birth of a possible beneficiary
- Change of domicile
- Change to estate tax laws
Benefits of a ‘Power of Attorney’
A durable power of attorney (POA) is a document which authorizes a person or “agent” to handle specific transactions for the individual creating the POA, also known as the “principal.” A POA is durable because it remains valid even after a principal loses legal capacity to distribute property or make other decisions, usually due to illness or a disability like dementia. A principal must have legal capacity at the time a POA document is executed. Pennsylvania considers all POAs to be durable unless stated otherwise.
There are different forms of a POA that a principal could authorize. A business power of attorney allows you to choose an agent to make business decisions for you if you are unable to make them. These can be numerous business matters involving tax matters, investments and retirement plans.
A health care power of attorney allows you to designate an individual to access your health care information and make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The agent in a health care POA can authorize the principal’s admission to a nursing home or other similar facility. They can also enter into agreements for other forms of care, like medical or surgical procedures.
Agents who do not act according to their principal’s wishes, without reasonable cause, can be held to civil or even criminal liability.
A living will, or advance health care declaration allows you to decide if you do or do not want certain medical measures if you are in a terminal condition or state of permanent unconsciousness. A living will is usually executed in conjunction with a healthcare POA. If a living will is not written for an incapacitated person, Pennsylvania law establishes presumptions for a patient’s end care stage. Pennsylvania law may also allow a health care representative to be appointed to act in the patient’s best interest, this representative is usually a family member.
All these documents should be considered in an estate plan. However, this is not a complete analysis of all issues concerning estate planning, to be fully apprised of essential estate planning tactics, you should speak with an experienced lawyer.
Our Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorneys are Ready to Help You
When it comes to wealth management, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and a well-crafted estate plan can save your heirs thousands of dollars in taxes. At Herr Potts and Potts, our lawyers provide our clients with a wealth of experience in estate planning. Our lawyers expertly draft wills, irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts, durable general powers of attorney, powers of attorney for health care, and living wills to assist our clients with succession planning.
Our goal is to ensure that our client’s last wishes are carried out and that their best interests are served with careful preparation of an Estate Plan designed to minimize Pennsylvania inheritance tax and federal estate tax exposure while maximizing wealth protection. To schedule a confidential consultation at our law offices, call us at (610) 254-0114 today.
Recent Estate Planning Matters Our Attorneys Have Handled:
- Drafted an estate plan for a young couple with minor children that established a trust under their Wills for the minor children until the minor children reached age 25.
- Established a Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) for a couple whose estate was over the federal estate tax exemption.
- Set up Disclaimer Trusts for a married couple whose estate was close to the federal estate tax exemption.
- Established a lifetime trust for a client’s child who has had issues with drugs and alcohol and is unable to handle money properly.
- Quickly met with a new client at the hospital who was having medical issues and wished to get an estate plan done quickly so that there would be powers of attorney in place in case he was unable to make decisions in the future.
- Drafted a Will for a client that established a life estate in her house for her child to ensure he could live there during his life and when the house was sold it would be left to all of her surviving children.