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Kennett Square Probate & Estate Law Blog

Prince's presumed heirs in court just days after his death

Virtually no Philadelphia resident is unaware of the life and career of mega-star Prince. The musician recently passed away, and it appears that he may have had no estate plan in place to outline his wishes. His siblings (who are also his likely heirs) have filed court documents asking that a special administrator be assigned to the star's estate, which is the first steps in what is expected to be a long and arduous legal journey.

Prince was not only known for his musical talent; he was also among the earliest artists to demand the rights to his own artistic efforts. He battled with his record label for years, and felt strongly that holding the rights to his music was imperative. Ironically, if Prince did not create a solid estate plan, the rights to his life's work could become the center of a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

Estate planning for second and later marriages

Any time that a Philadelphia resident goes through a significant life event, there is a need to revise his or her existing estate plan. This is especially true when a second or subsequent marriage takes place. A new union not only creates new family ties, but it also serves as a reminder that it may be time to update or change previous estate planning measures.

In many cases, a spouse who marries a second time will already have children from a previous marriage. He or she often feels the need to create a plan that will provide for all surviving loved ones. That can be tricky when there is a blended family involved, and it will require careful estate planning measures.

Estate planning can protect an individual's social legacy

Not everyone approaches estate planning with the focus of passing down accumulated wealth to their children and grandchildren. In many cases, Philadelphia residents have spent a lifetime building their business or creating a body of creative work, and wish to preserve that legacy for the future. Even in the absence of a child or grandchild who is able or willing to take on those responsibilities, it is possible to structure an estate planning package that will allow one's work to live on, even after they have passed.

A prime example is found in the life and legacy of Alfred Nobel. Father of the Nobel Prizes, the inventor, chemist and engineer was the mind behind the invention of dynamite, a product that made him a very wealthy man. After public opinion turned against him for creating a substance that could destroy human lives so easily, Nobel sought to change his legacy, and his estate plan funded the Nobel Prizes. In the 120 years since his death, the name Nobel has become synonymous with acknowledging great achievement in science, technology, world peace and literature.

One way to help avoid an inheritance dispute

For many Philadelphia families, estate planning is a complicated affair. Often, parents wish to divide their savings and assets between their surviving children, but that division is not always equal. Passing along an unbalanced inheritance can cause a great deal of family strife, but there is a simple way to lessen the chance that siblings will engage in a lengthy and bitter inheritance dispute.

Once the decision-making process is complete, the next step is to gather the family together to discuss the overall estate plan. Each family is unique, and some will choose to include the spouses of each child, while others will limit this meeting to immediate family only. No matter who is invited to attend, both parents need to be on the same page about what level of input is going to be accepted. Will this be a meeting in which parents tell their kids what has already been decided, or is it a meeting where the kids are asked to provide their input on the matter?

What to look for in an estate planning attorney

Some Philadelphia residents require the services of an estate planning attorney in order to create their wills or to structure a trust. Others need to find an attorney to initiate or defend against probate litigation. In order to make the best possible choice, it is important to understand that not all estate planning attorneys make probate litigation a significant part of their practices.

In order to succeed in court, one's attorney must be knowledgeable in both current law and courtroom practices. He or she should be just as skilled at presenting an argument in front of a court as in drafting documents in an office setting. Understanding how cases play out in front of a judge is critical to structuring a plan for success.

Consider the "estate" in estate planning

When some Philadelphia residents hear the word "estate," they may think about a mansion set in an expanse of green lawn, perhaps surrounded by grazing horses and with an large gate at the end of a winding drive. In reality, the word simply means the collected assets of an individual at the time of his or her passing. Virtually everyone has an estate, even though the contents of each estate will differ. In the same way, virtually everyone can benefit from estate planning, even though the level of complexity of those plans will also differ.

Consider, for example, a couple who have slowly paid off their mortgage over a period of 30 years. They have paid off all of their debt and have managed to set aside a modest amount for retirement. One spouse earned a pension during her career, while the other inherited a small family vacation spot on a nearby river. They live well within their means and are about to begin drawing retirement.

Baby Boomers may have unique estate planning needs

As the American population continues to age, individuals from the Baby Boomer generation are nearing or entering retirement. Boomers may have specific estate planning needs that are going unnoticed. A recent article takes a look at the unique scenario facing millions of aging Americans, both in Philadelphia and across the nation.

As Boomers age, many are taking on responsibility for their own aging parents. This means they are setting aside their own needs and desires to ensure that their parents are cared for in loving environments. This is a wonderful thing for an adult child to do, but it also creates a set of risks. Should the Boomer child predecease his or her parent or parents, which provisions will be made to address the parents' continuing care needs?

Providing guidance for an estate administrator gathering assets

Once a Philadelphia resident has completed his or her estate plan, a deep sense of satisfaction often follows. Knowing that the proper provisions have been made for those who will be left behind is very soothing to many people and checks off an important item off of one's lifelong "to-do" list. That said, there is another step that should be taken to assist one's designated estate administrator in gathering assets when the time comes.

Even the most carefully constructed estate plan is of little use if the proper people are unable to access those documents when the time comes to put the plan into action. There are a number of ways to use technology to meet this need, including digital storage, cloud-based storage and even scanning and saving files to a dedicated drive or other media. Digital storage might become the estate planning norm of the future, but for now, many people prefer to have a paper-based system, or at least a printed backup of documents stored digitally.

A guide to advance health care directives for singles

Many single people feel that they do not need to address estate planning until they have a family to consider, or that they have yet to amass a degree of assets that would necessitate an estate plan. These individuals are overlooking an important component of estate planning, which is the creation of an incapacitation plan to be called upon in the event of a serious illness or injury. Advance health care directives are important no matter one's age or family status.

A health care directive is a series of directions provided for a friend or family member to follow in the event that a Philadelphia resident is unable to direct the course of his or her own health care. Very few people like to think about such an event, but failing to plan for the worst does nothing to prevent such an outcome from taking place. Without an advance health care directive in place, loved ones can be left scrambling to decide how to move forward with treatment options.

An inheritance dispute can center on small things

When loved ones pass away, many Philadelphia families are thrown into states of turmoil. During the weeks to follow, family members can become embroiled in conflicts over who will get what. While most people assume that an inheritance dispute is reserved for assets with significant value, the reality is that loved ones often argue over belongings that hold little monetary value but have significant sentimental value.

The best way to protect against family strife is to create a comprehensive plan for distributing items of personal property. A good place to begin is to simply ask each family member what he or she would like to have and compile a list. If there are items in dispute, decisions must be made as to who will get what, and those decisions should be confirmed in writing, with copies given to all parties.

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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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