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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

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.

Can we talk estate planning? Joan Rivers was one smart cookie

So many of us admired Joan Rivers for so many reasons. She was the first woman to have her own talk show; she was the first "permanent guest host" of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She survived a difficult marriage and her husband's suicide; she made multiple comebacks, and she was really, really funny.

There is something missing from that list, though, that we have learned more about since her death in September. It should not surprise anyone that Joan Rivers was also a savvy businesswoman, and she put her business sense to work when she wrote her estate plan.

How estate planning benefits Pennsylvania residents

Estate planning is a term that pops up in social media as well as the news more and more often. Once, only individuals with wealth or numerous valuable assets worried about estate planning, but now, even people with the most modest assets are using this tool to achieve their life goals. In addition to resolving financial and asset related concerns, this type of planning also helps people prepare for any contingencies that could arise over their lifetimes.

Some of the areas that fall under the estate planning umbrella include making plans for elder family members, designating guardians for minor children if parental death occurs, establishing wills or trusts, putting powers of attorney in place, handling health care wishes in the event of major illnesses or accidents and many others.

How can you or your heirs benefit from a trust?

Whether you live in Pennsylvania or another part of the country, you probably want to put your assets and money to the best use, both while you are living and after your death. Trusts, often overlooked, are one of the best ways to not only protect your assets, but to take advantage of benefits, such as tax breaks.

The most popular trusts are living trusts and testamentary trusts -- the big difference being that living trusts are in effect while you are alive, and testamentary trusts are set up in a will and do not go into effect until your death.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the best beneficiary of them all? p2

We are fully recovered from Thanksgiving and we are ready to circle back to our Nov. 20 post about naming beneficiaries for retirement accounts. Completing that one form can make the world of difference to your heirs. Making a mistake on the form or altogether forgetting to fill it out could also make the world of difference to your heirs, but not in a good way.

In our Nov. 20 post, we talked about the importance of updating your beneficiary designations after a major life event. Marriage, divorce, adoption, the death of a loved one, a worse-than-normal family fight over the holidays -- these and other events could change what you want to happen to your money after you are gone.

Estate planning for non-traditional family groups

In today's society, there are very few Pennsylvania families that fit the traditional mold. In fact, the very idea of the "traditional" family is being redefined, as people form connections that create an intricate web of loved ones. However, when it comes to estate planning, accommodating an individual's wishes to include family members from different relationships can be a challenge.

For example, consider a scenario in which a husband and wife are both married for the second time. If the husband wants to leave the bulk of his assets to his wife, this is easy to accomplish through the use of a will. However, if he wants to ensure that any assets that remain after her death will pass on to his children from the previous marriage, this will require a more structured approach.

The usefulness of trusts in estate planning

Exemptions for federal estate taxes continue to rise to the point that they are not an issue for most middle-to-upper-income people who plan to leave money to their heirs. Nevertheless, federal estate tax still represents a very big problem for wealthy Pennsylvania residents. The state of Pennsylvania also has what is called an inheritance tax that heirs must pay when they receive money and assets from a deceased benefactor. Traditionally, trusts have been used to help individuals avoid such taxes, and trusts are still very useful today -- not just for avoiding estate and inheritance taxes, either.

Revocable trusts are some of the most common estate-planning tools being used today. A trust can be financed with a wide variety of property, including securities, real estate, life insurance proceeds and cash. A trust document is also very malleable, and it can provide income and bequeath assets to survivors in a way that treats each heir uniquely and individually. For example, a trust might be constructed to provide income to one's spouse until he or she dies, and then it could provide income to one's children after that -- and grandchildren after that. 

What happens to my assets if I don't leave a will?

Thinking about your own death can be a scary thing for most people. Because of its finality, a lot of people try to avoid thinking about it until the very last minute. This can sometimes mean though that people will put off handling many of the end-of-life things that are most important to complete before it's too late. One of these things is making a will.

As we have said many times before on this blog, wills are incredibly important legal documents that help determine who will receive what portion of your assets and who will be executor of your will. Wills can also help outline your end-of-life wishes, which makes things easier on your loved ones after you have passed away.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the best beneficiary of them all?

We often encourage people to review their beneficiary forms to make sure the right people are named and all of their personal information is as current as possible. Just remember that a life insurance policy is not the only piece of your estate that has a beneficiary: Your IRAs do, too.

It used to be that a person's most valuable asset was his primary residence. Nowadays, we aren't so sure. The Philadelphia metro area's residential real estate market is on the rebound, but after the foreclosure crisis, the wave of underwater mortgages and a surge in loan refinancing, the home may just be one of a few pretty solid assets.

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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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