Blue Bell Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Common Disputes in Residential and Commercial Construction

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Real Estate on Feb 23, 2017.

As soon as initial plans have been drawn up — and well before construction begins — it’s important for all involved parties to pay close attention to potential “cracks” and “fault lines” in the ongoing negotiations that could lead to a significant dispute later on.  Of course, not all disputes can be predicted.  There is an basic level of uncertainty that accompanies all residential and commercial construction projects. Whatever your position relative to the construction project (contractor, developer, purchaser, etc.), it’s absolutely critical that you work with a skilled Delaware County real estate lawyer who will provide expert guidance and draft specific agreements to limit the potential of a lawsuit, even in the event that a dispute arises. Well in advance of construction, try to be mindful of disputes that commonly arise in both residential and commercial construction projects.  By understanding the potential for dispute, you may be able to clarify issues beforehand and avoid costly litigation down the road. The following is a non-exhaustive list of common disputes that arise in both residential and commercial construction projects. Excessive Delay If your construction contract includes explicit deadlines for the completion of various project milestones (and makes clear that such deadlines are materially relevant to the satisfactory completion of the contract), then a significant delay that threatens the contractual bargain is very likely to lead to a legal dispute.  Even without an explicit deadline, if a delay is particularly excessive, it may be linked to abandonment of the construction project altogether. […]

Financing Your Next Commercial Real Estate Venture

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Real Estate on Feb 21, 2017.

Commercial real estate financing can be particularly complicated and high-stakes when compared to other forms of borrowing — in part because the loan amounts are likely to be quite significant, and in part because commercial financing loans are secured by the potentially income-earning real estate itself (or related assets).  As such, developers and other borrowers are best served by keeping apprised of the potential issues and exercising caution as they approach the commercial real estate financing process. If you’re preparing to finance your next commercial real estate venture, then you’ll want to make sure that you engage lenders with the following issues in mind. How an Assignment of Leases Works In the commercial real estate financing context, an assignment of leases grants the lender landlord rights normally granted to the borrower, in a limited capacity.  When the borrower defaults or owes some other obligation to the lender, then the lender is empowered to act as the landlord and collect rent to cover the debt (the lender gains a security interest in the rent from leases relating to the property at-issue). How does it work? Generally, an assignment of leases completely transfers the borrower’s rights under the leases over to the lender, who then grants the borrower a license to act as the landlord (this license can last for an indefinite or definite period of time).  If the borrower defaults, however, then the lender is entitled to take back the license and operate as the landlord instead. As a general rule, […]

Five Things That Could Impact Real Estate Developers in Philadelphia County

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Real Estate on Feb 16, 2017.

If you are a real estate developer or other interested party in Philadelphia County, there are a number of unique programs and zoning regulations that are likely to have an impact on your current/future projects in the county — some positive (i.e., grants, reimbursements, etc.), others negative (i.e., forced community outreach, increased administrative overhead, etc.). The following is a non-exhaustive list of high-impact regulations in Philadelphia County affecting real estate developers.  As a developer, it’s critical that you remain apprised of new regulation and how it will influence your projects from an administrative, financial, and foundational feasibility perspective. Developer Services Program for Large Real Estate Projects The Developer Services Program is a voluntary program available to developers of large-scale real estate projects (e.g. projects involving more than 25 residential units or 50k square feet of floor space).  The Program gives developers the ability to submit early plans to various Planning Commission staff and approval agencies — after a Committee Meeting and preliminary review is conducted, the stakeholders coordinate the project details in order to meet the requirements for approval. Fundamentally, the Developer Services Program offers developers a means with which to smooth out and quicken the approval process. Neighborhood Economic Development Grant Program May Open Up New Opportunities Pursuant to the establishment of the Neighborhood Development Grant Program, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce has made a serious attempt to help encourage development of long-neglected neighborhood commercial areas. The Neighborhood Development Grant Program enables neighborhood-based organizations to request and be awarded […]

A Brief History of Land Use Regulation

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Land Use on Feb 14, 2017.

Land use regulation encompasses a wide variety of laws that impose restrictions on the rights of landowners.  These regulations may include rules relating to building size and zoning rules, among various other permutations.  Fundamentally, all land use regulation is intended to burden a landowner’s use of their real estate property in some way. As late as the turn of the 20th century, most cities in the United States lacked zoning laws altogether — in fact, it was not until 1916 the first zoning code was developed and implemented in New York City.  As the country rapidly urbanized over the course of the 20th century, however, land use and zoning regulations became ubiquitous. Pennsylvania Land Use A significant portion of Pennsylvania land use regulation is split between four land use planning tools authorized by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (effected into law in 1968), which empowers municipal governments across the state to implement their own land use regulations. Penn State’s College of Agricultural Services notes that the four municipal land use planning tools in Pennsylvania are as follows: Planning Commissions Planning commissions consist of elected advisors who provide administrative policy guidance on land use regulation and implementation in their respective community.  Advisors wield considerable power in being able to develop and prepare design plans for land use organization and development. Comprehensive Plan The comprehensive plan document is perhaps best seen as a policy guide that represents the coordinated views of a variety of stakeholders — the planning commission, politicians, agencies, private […]

Montgomery County Real Estate Lawyer Highlights Federal, State and Local Laws That Might Apply to Your Next Real Estate Transaction

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Real Estate on Jan 27, 2017.

Depending on your point of view, the myriad of federal, state and local laws impacting a single real estate transaction is either an unnecessary hindrance adding to the cost of the transaction on all sides, or needed protections for all parties, the environment and society in general. From consumer protection to environmental protection to zoning, all branches of government want to have a say in your deal. Our Montgomery County real estate lawyer highlights some of the laws below. Federal Laws Relating to Real Estate By far the most encompassing of the three levels of government, federal statutes and their implementing regulations touch on all aspects of a real estate transaction and beyond: The sales process (e.g. what you can say and who you can sell to); Inspections (e.g. the duty to disclose); Appraisals (e.g. qualifications and non-hindrance); The lending process (e.g. who can be required to sign; disclosure of terms); The closing process (e.g. fees, title companies, closing costs, escrow); and The foreclosure process in the event of default under a mortgage (e.g. disclosure of rights and cure periods). The following are some of the federal laws that may directly or indirectly relate to your real estate transaction: Fair Housing Act; Truth In Lending Act, Consumer Protection Ac; Real Estate Settlement And Procedures Act; Equal Credit Opportunity Act: Home Mortgage Disclosure Act; Fair Credit Reporting Act; Americans With Disabilities Act; USA Patriot Act; Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act; […]

A Tenant’s Right to Assign or Sublet a Commercial Lease

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Real Estate on Oct 21, 2016.

Over the past several years as businesses struggle to ride out the tough economic times, they have had no choice but to downsize. Tied to commercial leases for more office or retail space than they need, an assignment of the lease or the subletting of the extra space seems like an attractive way of saving on expenses. In making the decision whether to assign or sublet, the tenant should first carefully examine its lease to determine whether the lease contains any provisions prohibiting or restricting assignment or subleasing. Commercial leases, like any other contracts, are governed by their terms. Therefore, whether a tenant has the right to assign a lease to another party or to sublet the leased premises to another tenant depends on the language of the tenant’s lease with the landlord. If the lease does not contain language prohibiting or restricting the assignment or transfer of a tenant’s interest, a tenant is free to assign or transfer all or part of its interest. A tenant is not required to obtain prior consent of the landlord, unless the lease contains language requiring the tenant to obtain prior consent of the landlord. In making the decision whether to assign or sublet, the tenant should also understand the legal differences between the two concepts. An assignment of a lease is the transfer by the tenant of all of the tenant’s rights and interest in the lease. In an assignment, although the assignee tenant effectively steps into the shoes of the assigning […]

Where do people get their estate planning advice?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Oct 21, 2016.

According to research, fewer than half of all American adults have taken the time to create a comprehensive estate plan. That leaves far too many people without the ability to direct the course of their own incapacitation care, or to hand down assets to their surviving loved ones. In order to understand why so many Pennsylvania residents have not addressed their estate planning needs, it is important to take a close look at how Americans seek and find information. In decades past, many adults turned to their extended family for financial management advice. Parents passed down skills and knowledge to their children, including a blueprint for creating a solid estate plan. Today, however, the manner in which we receive and share information is drastically altered from the path taken by earlier generations. Many adults today seek information exclusively from online sources. When it comes to estate planning, websites can offer inconsistent, misleading or simply false information. While there are number of excellent online resources that can guide families through various estate planning options, there are also plenty of sites that provide potentially harmful advice. Even more importantly, many estate planning options are highly complex and work best when used as part of a larger estate planning strategy. The best way for Pennsylvania residents to address their estate planning needs is to seek the services of a seasoned estate planning attorney. Working with a professional can not only make estate planning a faster and more efficient process, it can also reduce […]


Setting up trust administration for a living trust

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Trust Administration on Oct 14, 2016.

When trying to decide how to handle real estate within the larger estate planning process, many families turn to trusts. There are multiple different types of trusts, some of which may offer a better fit for a Pennsylvania family than another. In the case of a living trust, it is important to understand how to set up the trust, and how to ease the eventual trust administration process. A living trust is one that is created during a homeowner’s lifetime, and involves re-titling the home into the name of the trust itself. A living trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable living trust is one that allows the homeowner to retain complete control over the piece of real estate, as well as any other assets that are placed within the trust. The downside is that a revocable living trust offers no protection from creditors. An irrevocable living trust is one in which the homeowner largely cedes control over the assets placed within the trust, and cannot remove those assets. The benefits, however, include removing the assets from the owner’s taxable estate. Protection from creditors is another appealing aspect of an irrevocable trust. Stipulations can be placed on the trust that limit the ability of beneficiaries to access the wealth held in trust, which can be important to some families. When determining how to handle the disposition of real estate in the larger estate planning process, it is important to understand the ins and outs of all available options. […]


Estate tax changes and the upcoming election

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Tax on Oct 6, 2016.

Many Pennsylvania residents are paying close attention to this year’s general election, including watching the presidential debates. Some voters are concerned about proposals made by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to change existing estate tax rules. If those changes were to come to fruition, some of the nation’s wealthiest families would face a significant estate tax hike. Currently, estates that are worth up to $5.45 million are exempt from estate taxes. Any wealth accumulated beyond that point is subject to a tax of 40 percent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proposed reducing the exemption amount to $3.5 million and increasing the tax rate to between 50 and 65 percent. Only those with an estate valued at more than $500 million would be subject to the highest rate. Of course, it should also be noted that families who have amassed significant levels of wealth are usually able to obtain excellent estate planning services. That can help them reduce the portion of their estate that is subject to taxation, and in some cases, eliminate estate tax consequences entirely. However, many are concerned that families who have done very well but are not exceedingly rich will be especially hard hit by these changes. It is also important to understand that the proposals and promises made during political campaigns do not always result in actual change. It is possible that even if Clinton is elected this November, the estate tax could remain at its current level. With campaign efforts now in full swing, Pennsylvania […]


Estate planning needs for families with children

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Sep 30, 2016.

For Pennsylvania parents, few things are more important than providing for the needs of their children. From the time a new baby is welcomed into the family until long after he or she graduates from high school, parents focus on ensuring that their kids have everything they need to thrive. In terms of estate planning, parents can take steps to care for their children even in the event of a sudden and tragic loss. One of the most important components of estate planning is designating a guardian to step in and provide love and guidance in the absence of one or both parents. When choosing a guardian, parents should take the time to consider all possible candidates. It is equally important to discuss the matter with the individual who is chosen, to ensure that he or she is up for the task. Parents also need to consider who will handle the financial aspect of things. In some cases, the chosen guardian can also assume responsibility for managing the financial aspects of the estate. In other cases, another individual is better suited for that task. This can be a tricky subject to navigate, but it is important that both roles are filled in the best manner possible. Pennsylvania families must take these and other related matters into consideration when creating an estate planning package. In most cases, those plans will never need to be called into action. However, in the event of a sudden and untimely loss, having these issues sorted […]


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