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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

What to look for in an estate planning attorney

For many in Philadelphia, making the decision to create an estate plan is the most difficult part of the entire process. From that point forward, the decisions that are made will be guided by an estate planning professional, which can take a great deal of the anxiety out of the process. Choosing the right attorney is essential to a positive outcome.

It should be noted that the attorney who is chosen will be given a great deal of very personal and private information concerning one's finances, family structure and more. It is important to find an attorney with whom discussing such matters feels comfortable and natural. In the best case scenario, this is a professional relationship that will last for many years, so it is crucial to find the best possible fit from the outset.  

Estate planning win for same-sex couples

Many Philadelphia residents are aware of the recent Supreme Court ruling that serves to legitimize same-sex marriage. The change has led to a number of positive outcomes for gay families, including significant benefits in the estate planning arena. For those who have already taken steps to ensure that their partner is able to inherit assets upon one's death and make decisions in the event of incapacitation, the ruling may prompt a review of the existing documents.

Now that same-sex couples can legally wed, those couples will be able to enjoy the same benefits as married couples. Chief among these is the right to portability. Each individual is allowed to pass on $5.43 million in assets at the time of his or her death. Married couples are allowed to combine that amount. If a spouse dies and does not use the entirety of that exclusion amount, the surviving spouse is able to keep the remainder and add it to his or her own exclusion, which is known as portability.

Wills are most effective when the proper executor is chosen

Drafting a thoughtful and comprehensive will is a great way for Philadelphia residents to ensure that their wishes are carried out at the time of their death. That said, an important aspect of that process involves selecting the right executor to carry out the provisions laid out within one's will. Many people are unaware of the full weight of the duties that an executor assumes in relation to wills and do not give the process of choosing an executor the proper attention.

An executor is responsible for filing the will in the appropriate probate court, which initiates the probate process. He or she is also tasked with handling the distribution of assets as laid out within the will. In order to achieve the desired results, it is crucial to select an executor who is both willing and able to carry out these functions.

A commonly neglected estate planning addition

When a loved one is lost, the surviving family members are often thrown into a very difficult and tumultuous time. Having to handle the final arrangements for a deceased relative is difficult enough, but doing so as one is also entering the grieving process makes the task even harder. Once a measure of time has passed, it is necessary to begin addressing the estate planning aspects of the loss of a Pennsylvania family member.

Many individuals have completed the task of creating an estate plan and have taken the time to ensure that their will, trust and other paperwork is all in place. However, there is a simple estate planning task that most people overlook. This is the creation of a comprehensive list of all assets, as well as how and where to locate those items of value.

When should you replace your executor?

Your executor is in charge of handling your affairs -- both financial and legal -- after you pass away. Of course, choosing the right executor is about finding someone who is willing and able to do the job and who you trust. While most appointed executors are capable of fulfilling their duties, there are situations in which it may become clear that a change is necessary.

So, what are some signs that it is time to get a new executor?

Protecting pets within estate planning

All across Pennsylvania, there are families that include beloved pets. Pet care has become a huge industry within the United States, and virtually every large city or town has a range of retail stores dedicated to providing pet supplies and services. While many people have a great deal of love for their pets, very few consider how to include these family members within the estate planning process.

While it is possible to establish a trust to provide a means of caring for a pet after an owner's death, this step is rarely necessary. A more common solution lies in simply compiling a list of documents related to one's pets, and ensuring that a trusted friend or family member is chosen to assume care of those animals in the event of the owner's death. Doing so can ensure an easier transition for pets if that need should arise.

Facebook releases new estate planning tool

When a loved one passes away, those who are left behind are often thrown into a tumultuous and difficult period of time. It is necessary to make the final arrangements that will allow friends and family to say goodbye, and there are often other immediate needs to be attended to, such as securing care for children and pets or addressing immediate financial concerns. After a period of time, many Philadelphia families move on to consider less urgent estate planning matters, such as how to access and preserve digital assets.

Digital assets are items of value that an individual creates and stores online. Examples include photos, video content and written pieces. While not all digital content has monetary value, a great deal of what we put out into the digital realm has significant emotional value to our loved ones. Having the ability to access these resources can be a challenge.

Trusts can play a role in nursing care planning

When considering various estate planning options, most Pennsylvania families focus on how to pass assets to loved ones in a smooth and seamless manner. Many families fail to give proper consideration to the chance that a surviving spouse could end up requiring residential medical care, which can complicate matters of inheritance. In some cases, the cost of such care can completely deplete an inheritance, leaving little or nothing for children or grandchildren. When considering this estate planning matter, families should look into whether trusts can be a good fit for their planning needs.

When a loved one requires residential nursing home or rehabilitative care, many families turn to Medicaid to help cover those costs. Medicaid is an excellent resource, but coverage only becomes active after an individual or couple has depleted their own assets to a certain level. In the case of an inheritance, the wealth received after a spouse passes on might be completely lost before Medicaid coverage is possible.

This valuable estate planning tool could be lost

When a Philadelphia family has amassed a certain level of wealth, a great deal of effort is focused on trying to shield that wealth from excessive taxation, thereby preserving a greater share for future generations. One tool that meets both of those goals lies in limited family partnerships. According to recent comments made by government tax authorities, this estate planning approach could soon be eliminated, leaving many families scrambling for an alternative.

A limited family partnership is created to hold a family business. Under current rules, that business can consist of nothing more than the management of a family's securities portfolio. The individual or couple who owns the business can give children and grandchildren limited interest partnerships in the business. When it comes to evaluating those partnerships for tax purposes, a tax discount is given.

Why wealthy people neglect estate planning needs

Many Pennsylvania residents falsely believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy, and that families with moderate levels of income and assets have little need for such measures. According to a recent survey conducted by a major media outlet, even the wealthy among us fail to properly address estate planning needs. When it comes to the reasons behind this trend, some of the logic makes perfect sense, even if the outcome is flawed.

One reason why many with a net worth between $1 million to $5 million fail to create a solid estate plan is based on a type of "planning fatigue." In recent years, these individuals and families have gone through a wide range of shifts and concerns over how estate tax changes might affect the eventual distribution of their wealth. Each proposed or actual change in tax laws prompted a call from one's financial planner or estate planning attorney. After being concerned about the issue for a long enough period of time, many people simply threw their hands up in frustration and stepped away.

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Larmore Scarlett LLP

Larmore Scarlett, LLP
123 E. Linden Street,
P.O. Box 384

Kennett Square, PA 19348

Phone: 610-444-3737
Fax: 610-444-9532
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