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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

Is your inheritance marital property in Pennsylvania?

If you inherit something of value or a large sum of money from a relative, is that yours to keep even in a divorce?

Logically, you might think so. Legally, the best answer anyone can give you without looking into the exact situation is, "Maybe." This is why.

Donating your body or organs when you die: A primer

A lot of people like the idea of donating their organs to help other people in need have a better life. They also like the idea of donating their body to science, in order to further scientific or medical research in any number of ways.

However, that's a topic that can be hard for your loved ones to handle right at the moment of your death. Unfortunately, the necessary procedures all have to be done within a very limited amount of time. That doesn't give your family members much of a chance to think over how they feel or consider what you might have wanted.

Does your will include access to digital assets and accounts?

How current is your will? Unless you have a section of your will or other estate planning documents that specifically addresses the issue of your digital property and assets, it's a good time to update.

Digital property and assets are quickly becoming one of the trickiest areas of estate planning to navigate, mostly because the laws haven't kept up with the times.

Tenancy by the entirety can't hold if it's a fraudulent transfer

Tenancy by the entirety can give married couples most of the same advantages and disadvantages of joint tenancy. When one spouse dies, the other spouse obtains full ownership without the property having to go through probate.

It also has one other aspect that makes it particularly attractive; property that's held in a tenancy by the entirety is only subject to liens or seizure to pay off the spouses' joint debts.

How do you revoke a will?

The right to decide who gets what out of everything from your real estate holdings to your personal property once you die is important, which is why everyone needs a will, no matter what your age. If you die without one, the laws of your state will take over and control what happens instead.

However, your first will may not be anywhere close to your last. It isn't uncommon for people to have to revoke a will and make a new one several times over the course of their lifetime.

Court allows same-sex adoptions to dissolve so partners can marry

One more stumbling block in the path of same-sex unions seeking legitimacy has been removed, at least in Pennsylvania.

In the last few decades, the laws in the United States regarding same-sex unions created a patchwork quilt of rights that varied widely among the states.

Small value estates: How to divide up personal items fairly

In Pennsylvania, there's a provision in the law that allows some small estates to avoid the probate process altogether.

In order to qualify, the total value of a deceased individual's assets has to be less than $50,000 and can't include real estate. You'll still have to petition the court and get approval to handle the estate that way, and you still have to make sure that the deceased's creditors are paid before any remaining assets are distributed.

Can a no-contest clause keep a will out of court?

For many people, a large part of the purpose of a will is to make sure that their estate is distributed the way that they want it to be distributed. Unfortunately, fights between surviving relatives over who was given more than their fair share or who was denied what they feel is their due can drag an estate into court. If successful, a challenge can prevent your original intentions from being carried out. Even if a challenge isn't successful, it can take years to resolve and prevent your rightful heirs from moving forward.

Do you suspect that your relatives are likely to start fighting over the contents of your will the moment after you're gone? One way to limit the potential for legal challenges to your will is to add a no-contest, or "forfeiture," clause. This is a clause that says that an heir who challenges the will and loses gets nothing at all. If done right, this can make someone hesitate to gamble a sure thing against an uncertain legal decision in the future.

Keeping elders safe from estate fraud

Legitimate estate planning is something that everyone can use as a vehicle both to grow their wealth and to protect it for their heirs once they are gone.

However, scam artists frequently feed on the fears of elderly people, who worry both about running out of money to live on and about leaving something behind for their children once they are gone.

Challenging a power of attorney

A power of attorney is a document that's designed to give someone else the authority to act on your behalf when you aren't able to do so for some reason. It isn't uncommon for an older person to give a power of attorney to a son, daughter, niece or nephew. The POA gives the younger person the authority to conduct business, including banking and bill paying, for their elderly relative.

But what if you suspect that the POA is abusing his or her discretion and using their position to take advantage of the older person? While most people who take on a POA are motivated by a genuine desire to help their elderly relative, some people can't resist the temptation to siphon away money that they see just sitting around in a bank account or use the elder's monthly Social Security checks partially for themselves.

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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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