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What tools can I use to shelter my assets from probate?

Probate is not a word that many people are very fond of for many reasons. It is a complicated legal process, which in itself can cause anxiety. Amongst other factors are the time it takes to complete, the expense incurred by the estate before taxes or debts are even paid and the public nature of the process.

It is not necessary for everyone to avoid probate in Pennsylvania, but it can be very beneficial for some people. How do you avoid probate?

Pennsylvania's revised power of attorney law took effect Jan. 1 p3

Pennsylvania's power of attorney requirements changed at the beginning of the year. In truth, some changed in 2014, but everything included in the bill passed last year is now in full force. And while change can be hard in this area of the law, the good news is that these changes offer greater protection to both the principal and the agent.

In our March 9 post, we talked about the new requirement that two witnesses sign the power of attorney and that the document be notarized. Further, neither the agent nor the principal's spouse can be a witness. The old law also required that an agent sign an acknowledgement before taking any action as the attorney-in-fact.

Pennsylvania's revised power of attorney law took effect Jan. 1 p2

We are continuing our discussion of the changes to the law governing powers of attorney. At the end of our last post, we mentioned that the new law amends the text of the notice that appears at the beginning of the power of attorney document. For those of us who rely on reading glasses more and more, the General Assembly has not changed the requirement that the entire notice be in capital letters.

Just a quick reminder before we go into more detail: The principal is the person giving another person the authority to manage some or all of his affairs. The agent is the person who receives that authority when the power of attorney goes into effect.

Pennsylvania's revised power of attorney law took effect Jan. 1

How did it get to be March already? You would think that the weather this winter would have made time stand still, but here we are, finally following up on a promise we made in our September 2014 series about powers of attorney ("Durable, limited, whatever: Power of attorney is a flexible tool). The promise was to go through the changes to Pennsylvania's power of attorney law that took effect on Jan. 1.

The new law covers a lot of territory, so it may take a couple of posts to go through them. Also, some of these went into effect last year. It makes more sense to talk about all of the changes at the same time, though.

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.

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Larmore Scarlett LLP

Larmore Scarlett, LLP
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P.O. Box 384

Kennett Square, PA 19348

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