Jump to Navigation

Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

Benefits of trusts versus a simple will

Virtually all Philadelphia residents are aware that they need to put their final wishes into writing. For many, the vehicle that they choose to complete this important step is a simple will. While wills do provide a basic level of estate planning coverage, there are other options that offer many more benefits. Often, trusts are a far better fit for an individual's needs, and they are not much more complicated to create than a simple will.

For one, a trust allows for a much greater level of privacy. Wills go through probate, which is a public proceeding. That means that the details of who is tagged to get what will be made available to anyone who wishes to look into the matter. Not only can this cause a great deal of contention among heirs, but it also gives loved ones very little privacy as they accept the wealth that has been passed down to them.

Tips for using safe deposit boxes within estate planning

Once an estate plan has been drafted, many Philadelphia residents are unsure where to store those important documents. Keeping them in the home is a common choice, but that leaves a risk that they could be damaged in the event of fire or flood, or could be accessed by an unauthorized party. For many, storing estate planning documents within a safe deposit box is a good option. However, there are some considerations to be made to ensure that these documents are easily accessible when the time comes to call them into action.

The best way to ensure that one's chosen proxy is able to gain access to the contents of a safe deposit box is to meet with a representative of the bank to go over its policies. Different banking institutions have different rules concerning when and how individuals can access these secured storage options. One way to address the matter is to set up a joint account, which is often the path chosen by married couples. Be sure to ask if the bank will allow a surviving spouse to remove items from the box once the other party has passed away.

Change your perspective when considering heirs

For many in Pennsylvania, a primary focus within the estate planning process is to create a plan to distribute wealth equally among surviving children. This is an admirable goal, and one that can go a long way toward avoiding bitterness and resentment among siblings. That said, many parents take a very one-sided approach when it comes to estate planning and only think about what they would like to give, as opposed to what their heirs might like to receive.

For example, a family may own a vacation home on a lake. The summer house might hold a great many memories and may have been passed down through the family for generations. It is easy to assume that the property should be handed down to one's children with everyone receiving an equal share, but in reality, this arrangement might not be what a group of siblings wants.

Durable powers of attorney for unmarried couples

Young love is a powerful thing, and virtually every Pennsylvania resident can remember a time in which the possibilities of life seemed endless and future happiness felt like a certainty. While this is a normal part of early adulthood, young people must take care that they are not overlooking important needs while swept up in a committed but unmarried relationship. For such couples, durable powers of attorney offer a way of legitimizing one's partner as an authorized proxy in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury.

Very few of us make detailed plans for such a distressing event, preferring instead to rely on statistics to keep us safe from harm. In reality, however, accidents and illnesses do occur, and can pose a number of difficulties for young people who have not taken the appropriate estate planning steps needed to name an individual to make vital medical and financial decisions. In the best case scenarios, a great deal of confusion makes an already difficult time even harder to handle. In the worst examples, one's partner can become embroiled in conflict with one's family members.

Beware of the risk of estate planning scams

Any time there is an exchange of money for services, there are individuals out there who are ready and willing to run a scam. This is true even within the field of estate planning. Most Philadelphia residents will turn to legal professionals to complete their estate planning packages, but there are some who will try to save money by using services that are not provided by a legal professional.

Such may be the case for one West Coast woman who used an advertised service to create a family trust and will. She recognized the value of having these documents in place, but she may have missed the mark in determining how to achieve that end. Instead of working with an estate planning attorney, she allowed an individual to complete the documents for a fee of only $550.

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?

Contact Us

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

Subscribe To This Blog's Feed
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
E-Mail Us | Kennett Square Law Office Map

LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards and Legal Ability Peer Review Rated for Ethical Standards & Legal Ability | AV Preeminnent | Martindale Hubbell FindLaw Network