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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

A bad seed indeed: There's a fine line between slayer and heir p3

We are still talking about slayer statutes and what happens to the heir or beneficiary who is responsible for the death of the testator/grantor. As we have said, you cannot kill your father, be convicted of the crime and still inherit his millions. Pennsylvania follows the model rule by approaching these instances as if the slayer had died before the victim.

The story we have been talking about -- the arrest of Thomas Gilbert Jr. for his father's murder -- is not the only high-profile case to shine a light on slayer statutes. The particularly gruesome murders of Florida businessman and Fontainebleau Hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. and his mother have posed some very interesting questions for probate courts. That's for another post, though.

A bad seed indeed: There's a fine line between slayer and heir p2

We are circling back to our Jan. 24 post and our discussion of slayer statutes. The principle is fairly simple: Criminals should not profit from their crimes -- especially if the crime is a murder.

The subject came up when we saw a news item from New York. The murder occurred in New York, but Pennsylvania's slayer statute is very similar to New York's. The victim in this case was hedge fund founder Thomas Gilbert Sr. His son, Thomas Jr., has been charged. His son is also one of his father's heirs.

Hedge fund founder's death marks import of contingency planning

In the course of estate planning, one of the most important questions a person in Pennsylvania may want to address is, what if? One of the key advantages of going through the exercise of formalizing an estate plan is that it requires thinking beyond the here and now. And when you are trying to anticipate for some future vision, asking the question above helps.

The recent death of a New York hedge fund investment manager is what sparks this particular observation. The 70-year-old founder of the Wainscott Capital Partners Fund was found shot to death in his Manhattan apartment on Jan. 4.

What are key lessons from the Robin Williams estate dispute?

When news about the suicide death of actor and comedian Robin Williams broke there was a lot of shock here in Pennsylvania and all around the world. He was a beloved entertainer who had a gift for making others laugh. Apparently few fathomed how deeply depressed he was.

What has grabbed far fewer headlines in connection with this story is the struggle that has erupted since his death between Williams' third wife and widow and his three offspring from the two previous marriages. While the situation is a sad one, it is something that experienced estate planning attorneys know a lot about and strive to help families avoid.

A bad seed indeed: There's a fine line between slayer and heir

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case this term about the three-drug protocol used in lethal injection executions. The appellants are from Oklahoma, but Pennsylvania is not a stranger to death penalty issues. A shortage of the necessary drugs, reaching a milestone of 250 death penalty reversals in September 2014, the release of studies showing the costs of the death penalty to the state -- Pennsylvania, like other states, has been struggling with how and whether to execute the people sitting on death row.

We may not know what to do with inmates awaiting execution, but we are certain of one thing we do not want them to do: profit from their crime. Pennsylvania and the overwhelming majority of other states has adopted a "slayer statute" that prevents that from happening. It isn't often, perhaps fortunately, that we see the slayer statute in action.

Caring for grandchildren means early retirement for some women

A new study shows some interesting trends among women nearing retirement age. Researchers found that women with grandchildren are less likely to participate in the workforce than women without grandchildren.

Further, women caring for those grandchildren are the least likely to be employed. And, of the two age groups in the study, women age 58 to 61 were more likely to retire than women age 51 to 54. Finally, the catalyst most likely to prompt a grandmother to leave the workforce was the birth of a grandchild.

Can we talk estate planning? Joan Rivers was one smart cookie

So many of us admired Joan Rivers for so many reasons. She was the first woman to have her own talk show; she was the first "permanent guest host" of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She survived a difficult marriage and her husband's suicide; she made multiple comebacks, and she was really, really funny.

There is something missing from that list, though, that we have learned more about since her death in September. It should not surprise anyone that Joan Rivers was also a savvy businesswoman, and she put her business sense to work when she wrote her estate plan.

How estate planning benefits Pennsylvania residents

Estate planning is a term that pops up in social media as well as the news more and more often. Once, only individuals with wealth or numerous valuable assets worried about estate planning, but now, even people with the most modest assets are using this tool to achieve their life goals. In addition to resolving financial and asset related concerns, this type of planning also helps people prepare for any contingencies that could arise over their lifetimes.

Some of the areas that fall under the estate planning umbrella include making plans for elder family members, designating guardians for minor children if parental death occurs, establishing wills or trusts, putting powers of attorney in place, handling health care wishes in the event of major illnesses or accidents and many others.

How can you or your heirs benefit from a trust?

Whether you live in Pennsylvania or another part of the country, you probably want to put your assets and money to the best use, both while you are living and after your death. Trusts, often overlooked, are one of the best ways to not only protect your assets, but to take advantage of benefits, such as tax breaks.

The most popular trusts are living trusts and testamentary trusts -- the big difference being that living trusts are in effect while you are alive, and testamentary trusts are set up in a will and do not go into effect until your death.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the best beneficiary of them all? p2

We are fully recovered from Thanksgiving and we are ready to circle back to our Nov. 20 post about naming beneficiaries for retirement accounts. Completing that one form can make the world of difference to your heirs. Making a mistake on the form or altogether forgetting to fill it out could also make the world of difference to your heirs, but not in a good way.

In our Nov. 20 post, we talked about the importance of updating your beneficiary designations after a major life event. Marriage, divorce, adoption, the death of a loved one, a worse-than-normal family fight over the holidays -- these and other events could change what you want to happen to your money after you are gone.

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Larmore Scarlett LLP

Larmore Scarlett, LLP
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