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Pennsylvania estate planning terminology can be confusing

Some Pennsylvanians may procrastinate concerning their estate plans because of a lack of understanding of the documentation and the applicable terminology. There may be misconceptions that are holding people back. Consulting with an attorney may provide answers and eliminate confusion about estate planning.

Many are confused about the difference between a living will and a last will and testament. The last will is a legal document that declares how assets should be divided, also when and to whom. If a person should die without a will, state law will determine the distribution of the deceased person's assets. A living will declares the person's wishes in relation to health care in the event of incapacitation or terminal illness, and it can also indicate whether a person wants to be kept alive by extraordinary measures.

There may also be misconceptions about powers of attorney. To handle one's legal and financial matters for a specified period in the event of incapacitation, a power of attorney must be appointed. To make such an appointment permanent or until death, the appointment must be a durable power of attorney. To make health care decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person, a health care power of attorney must be established. If these documents are not executed, relief must be pursued through the court system, which can be time consuming and costly.

An experienced Pennsylvania attorney can provide support and guidance with the estate planning process. The lawyer can also discuss the pros and cons of having a trust and explain the difference between an irrevocable and revocable trust. With the right support and guidance, the client can make informed decisions about drafting estate plans to suit his or her circumstances.

Source:, "Clearing Up Common Estate Planning Misconceptions", Scott Grenier, Jun 10, 2016

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