Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan typically consists of the following documents:

  1. Last Will and Testament to provide for the distribution of your property after death.
  2. Property Power of Attorney to protect you if you become unable to take care of your affairs during your lifetime.
  3. Health Care Power of Attorney to appoint Health Care Agents if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
  4. Living Will to direct what medical treatment you do or do not want to receive in the event you are terminally ill with no hope of recovery.
  5. Various types of Trusts dependent on circumstances.

What is the cost of Estate Planning?

The cost is determined by the complexity of the plan and the extent of the documentation required. Clients are advised of the projected cost of the planning at the initial conference.

I was just named Executor of an Estate. What does that mean?

Your friend or relative has placed a great deal of trust in you to wrap up their affairs. The Executor is responsible to collect the assets of the deceased person, pay all outstanding bills and debts, file income tax returns, file the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return, file the Federal Estate Tax Return if required, provide the beneficiaries with a statement of all financial activity in the Estate and then distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will. Because the Executor is personally liable for any financial losses during the administration of the Estate, it is highly recommended that the Executor seek representation from an experienced attorney.

Do same sex couples face any particular Estate Planning issues?

Recently, law in this area has dramatically changed. The Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which deprived same-sex married couples of legal benefits extended to heterosexual couples. The Federal Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that Pennsylvania's 1996 statutory ban on same-sex marriage recognition was unconstitutional. Same sex couples are now able to enjoy the same rights accorded to all married couples in Pennsylvania.

My parents are elderly and becoming forgetful, what should I do?

Many financial and legal questions arise when determining how best to protect our parents. It is important that your parents have their Powers of Attorney and estate plan in place before they experience diminished capacity.

Once your parents' estate plan is in place, you want to protect their financial and physical well being. On the financial side, there are many people who take advantage of the elderly. If you enjoy your parents' trust and they confide in you about their financial affairs, keep an eye on their financial statements to ensure they are not the victim of a fraud. For physical well being, you have to determine whether your parents are safe in the home. One good test question is whether your parent can get out of the house in the event of an emergency.

What tax issues arise when planning the distribution of my estate?

When you meet with your attorney, be prepared to discuss the size of your estate, including the value of real estate, bank and investment accounts, etc. Your attorney will attempt to lessen the impact of taxes on your estate. Estates can be subject to tax rates ranging from zero to 40%. We have to consider Estate, Inheritance and Income Tax issues.