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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

Is it possible to refuse a bequest or inheritance? p2

We are circling back to our March 31 post and the discussion of turning down gifts, bequests or inheritances. As we said, it is possible. There is no law that says you must accept a gift, that you must accept your deceased uncle's bequest of a painting you suspect was looted by the Nazis or the trust fund set up by your robber baron great-grandfather.

Say you have inherited a painting that you strongly suspect was part of a collection confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. You may have a moral objection to its provenance, or you may not want the legal obligation that could come with the gift. You can say no.

Ensuring adequate liquidity an important task in estate planning

A bill currently under consideration in the Pennsylvania Senate seeks to protect family farms from having to pay state inheritance taxes under a measure that would ensure the Department of Revenue consistently applies a specific tax exemption to families who use family trusts or family corporations to manage their estate planning and ownership interests.

The measure is a clarification of a law passed back in 2012 which sought to address a common problem for family farms: sometimes heirs have to sell off the farm against their wishes in order to pay for inheritance taxes. After the 2012 law was passed, the exemption was not applied consistently to families who had property in family trusts or family corporations, but the proposal seeks to change that. 

Is it possible to refuse a bequest or inheritance?

In a recent article from Think Progress, an independent non-profit organization, climate scientists urge museums to refuse donations from fossil fuel companies and "funders of climate science obfuscation." In particular, the scientists advise that money from David Koch, co-owner of multinational corporation Koch Industries Inc. Koch, it seems, is a generous donor -- $67 million since 1997 -- to organizations that actively oppose climate change theories, practices and policies.

Koch is not just a donor. He is a frequent and generous sponsor of museum exhibits and holds seats on the boards of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History. Even if Koch is not using his involvement to further the denial of climate change, the scientists argue, his reputation as a denier undermines the credibility of the museums that take his money. Museums are meant to be disseminating scientific knowledge to the general public -- again, according to the scientists -- not publicizing the generosity and, ultimately, the views of a person or an organization that works hard to deny climate change.

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

We are wrapping up our review of Pennsylvania's revised power of attorney law. All of these changes were effective Jan. 1, 2015. Some of them are a little confusing, and those of us who have recently drafted or executed a power of attorney document may want to consult with an attorney to make sure all the revised i's and t's are dotted and crossed.

The revision eliminates the limits on the agent's authority to give gifts or to amend the principal's estate plan. It is important to note, though, that only agents who are a) specifically designated by the principal, or b) an ancestor, descendant or spouse of the principal may make gifts to himself or name himself a beneficiary in the principal's estate plan.

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.

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