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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

Avoiding fraud against seniors with durable powers of attorney

It is one of the great ironies of life that by the time a person needs help, they may be too far gone to ask for it. Such is the case for one of the most vulnerable groups of people in Philadelphia, and indeed in the country. The elderly are at high risk for financial fraud, but granting durable powers of attorney may be the solution.

A Philadelphia man reported recently that his elderly mother approached him about a small loan to cover some checks that she bounced. He was surprised that she had allowed this to happen, she having worked in the business sector for more than four decades. When he questioned her about her finances, she was uncooperative.

Can the internet provide estate planning solutions?

The internet is truly a wonderful thing, and it has had an enormous impact on the ability to share, access and challenge information. In fact, for many Philadelphia residents who seek answers on virtually any topic, the internet is the first place that they turn. It should be noted, however, that there are many areas in which the best solution requires a personalized touch that is simply unavailable online. Estate planning is a perfect example.

The month of October has been designated National Estate Planning Awareness Month, and many people are interested in learning more about the estate planning process. After all, it is estimated that more than half of American adults do not currently have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Unfortunately, however, a different study asserts that most adults prefer to get their financial guidance and information primarily from social media.

Handling real estate during estate planning

When structuring one's estate, it is important to address each and every asset type differently. For example, cash held in a savings account will be handled differently from an investment account. A treasured stamp collection will need a different approach than shares in a business venture. Real estate offers yet another type of asset, and Philadelphia residents should understand how to incorporate real property into the larger estate planning picture.

When it comes to real estate, transferring assets is more complex than many other types of assets. Real estate cannot be passed down via a designated beneficiary, which is an option for many types of investment and bank accounts. If the property has not been placed in a trust, it will likely have to go through the probate process. That means that any maintenance expenses will need to be handled through the executor, as well as repair issues that might arise during the time of probate.

Lack of estate planning may lead to future family squabbles

Not everyone in the Philadelphia area looks forward to discussions regarding personal mortality. In fact, some people try to avoid the estate planning topic at all costs. However, in the past year, there have been some very high-profile situations that appear to be evidence that not having a set plan in place may prove problematic for family members down the line.

Anyone who reads Hollywood news will have heard by now that several stars died within the past year without having executed any sort of wills or estate plans. Stories abound of the various complications these situations have wrought for surviving family members. Those whose assets are of high net worth value are by no means the only ones who benefit from crafting solid estate plans and keeping them updated.

Estate planning often includes digital assets

Some people in Pennsylvania may still be getting used to showing personal photos from a cell phone or computer instead of from a dusty photo album on the shelf. However, as technology develops and evolves, it begins to affect people's lives in surprising ways. One of those ways may be estate planning. While it is important to decide what will happen to one's tangible assets after one's death, digit assets may be something people neglect when making decisions about their estates.

Digital assets can include anything a person has online that may not be tangible. This could be sentimental possessions, such as photos, but it may also be something with financial value. For example, some people may have accumulated loyalty points from using credit cards. Others may have Paypal or Bitcoin accounts or carry a credit balance on an online shopping account. The problem with these digital assets is that a fiduciary may be prohibited by state or federal law from accessing those accounts after the testator dies.

"Modern Family" provides estate planning viewpoints

The hit television series "Modern Family" is a favorite among viewers and critics alike. Many in Philadelphia tune in every week to watch the antics of the Dunphy family. A recent article used the family dynamics at play on the show to illustrate the various estate planning options that many modern families face in the real world.

The patriarch of the family is married to a much younger woman. She has a child from a previous marriage, while he has two adult children from a previous marriage. In terms of estate planning needs, this couple would likely focus on long-term care planning, as it is likely that the wife will long outlive her husband. As for inheritance matters, things become more complex, as the husband likely wishes to provide for both his new wife and his adult children.

How to decide on estate administration duties

Once an estate plan has been crafted and is nearing completion, Philadelphia families must turn their attention to determining who will be responsible for carrying out the tasks outlined within the plan. These decisions are just as important as those laid out within the estate plan itself, as estate administration is a crucial part of turning one's intentions into reality. Not everyone is well-suited to handle the administration of an estate, and the best candidates are not always the ones that immediately come to mind.

For example, many people assume that they should name their spouse as the party authorized to handle all matters related to the estate. However, there are many cases in which a surviving spouse is unsuited for that role. An example lies in a spouse who is played little to no role in the daily management of family finances. He or she may have the best of intent, but may lack the financial acumen needed to handle the multitude of tasks associated with estate administration.

Weighing the pros and cons of trusts and annuities

For some Philadelphia families, estate planning is not a simple matter. In cases where one child is struggling while his or her siblings are thriving, it can be difficult to know how to best pass on an inheritance. Some families consider annuities and trusts as estate planning options but are unsure of which path to follow.

In the case of annuities, an adult child who has addiction issues or who struggles with financial irresponsibility would not receive the full value of his or her inheritance at any one given time. The annuity would pay out over the course of many years. This ensures that the beneficiary will always have access to a source of funds. However, annuities are inflexible and cannot be reversed once annuitized.

Easing the process of gathering assets following a loss

For many Philadelphia families, the focus of estate planning efforts is on achieving a smooth transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. However, it is also important to give some consideration to the tasks that will be required of the person who is handling the estate. Gathering assets and distributing wealth to the designated heirs can be a stressful process, but families can take steps to make the task easier to accomplish.

One of the most important considerations when structuring an inheritance is to create a comprehensive list of personal property. This includes items both large and small, as items of seemingly little worth are often highly valued by loved ones. Creating a list of all items of personal property can help the person handling the administration of the estate know which items should go to which heirs.

How to take steps to protect against probate litigation

Philadelphia residents often spent considerable time and effort creating an estate plan that reflects their sincere intentions. Having those plans altered by probate litigation is often not something that individuals or families think about, although there is a risk that many of the provisions laid out within an estate plan could change during the course of a legal challenge. There are a number of steps that individuals can take to help ensure that the stipulations laid out within their estate plan will endure a challenge in probate court.

One of the most powerful things that can be done to reduce the risk of a contested will is a very simply step, yet one that is so often overlooked. Taking care to use clear language within a will and other estate planning documents can make a world of difference if the matter ever goes before a court of law. This begins with naming each and every heir and outlining which assets that person can expect to receive from the estate.

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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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