Monthly Archives: April 2015

In Pennsylvania, will my divorce affect my estate plan?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Apr 24, 2015.

If you’re like a small portion of people here in Pennsylvania, you’re probably meticulous about your estate plan. Not only did you likely get it in order while you were still young, you have probably also been careful to update it when a major life event has occurred. You might even be like some of our more frequent readers who have tapped into the experience of an attorney as well. But as you know, life can throw you curve balls that can affect your estate plan. Take for example divorce. Most people don’t plan for this major life event and may even be blindsided when they are faced with it. But because most people only have a general understanding of the law, they might have questions about how a divorce affects an estate plan. You might be wondering the same thing right now. In Pennsylvania, will my divorce affect my estate plan? To answer this question, we’ll need to look at Title 20, Section 6111.1 of our state’s Consolidated Statutes. In this section, Pennsylvania residents are told, in so many words, that any provision in a conveyance that would otherwise be revocable because of death is also revocable by divorce. For all intents and purposes, a divorced spouse is treated as if they had predeceased the conveyer of the provision. It’s important to note though that this aspect of the law may not trigger automatically in all cases. If a decree of divorce has not been entered or divorce proceedings […]

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To sleep, perchance to dream – but where, and for how much?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Long Term Care Planning on Apr 17, 2015.

Survey after survey has told us that the majority of Americans want to grow old in their own homes. Healthy or infirm, seniors want to be in a familiar environment, surrounded by their belongings and their loved ones. There are cases, too, when the loved ones drive the decision: Living independently has become difficult, impractical, or dangerous. For many, taking care of your parents in their old age is just what you do; keeping a sister stricken with ALS at home because it is easier for friends and family to be with her. Finances may also drive the decision. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are expensive, and the rules for Medicare are complicated, even, at times, outright punitive. For a long time, though, moving into a place like that was the only way to make sure a nurse checked on the senior on a regular basis. The increasing availability of qualified in-home health workers has taken some anxiety out of the equation. Having someone come to a person’s home means the patient need not leave the house for a care visit — it’s a twofer: convenience and reduced costs of care. And, of course, the patient and family can avoid the costs of an in-patient care facility — it’s really a threefer.  Healthcare costs are often described in terms of Medicaid reimbursements. The reimbursement is uniform and, in theory at least, reflects best practices. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, home care is dramatically less expensive, in Medicaid […]

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5 ways a trust can be used to control distributions to children

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Apr 15, 2015.

Parents want to make sure that their children will be taken care of financially should anything happen to them. It is one of the reasons that children are probably the most common beneficiaries of money or property in estate plans. Of course, parents know that just handing over a lump sum of money is not always the best option. Trusts are a great solution to this problem. Parents have a lot of flexibility when it comes to setting limitations, restrictions or conditions for the distribution of money. What are some situations in which a trust would be beneficial? Listed below are only five examples of situations in which a trust may be helpful. Do you have minor children? A trust provides an avenue for the controlled use of money for children while they are minors. Parents can set a certain age for final distribution or stagger distributions, like every five or ten years, and even increase the distribution amount over time. The answer to number three is also helpful here. Do you have a child with substance abuse problems? Parents can condition distributions on drug testing, requiring a negative test result or preventing distribution if the child fails a drug test. Do you have a child who is not very good at managing money? The terms of a trust can restrict use of the money to the “health, education, maintenance and support” of the beneficiary, granting the trustee with discretion over distributions. Do you want to encourage certain life choices? […]

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Putting your financial affairs in order

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Apr 15, 2015.

Approximately half of Americans who have children do not have a properly prepared will in place. While many parents are young and may not be thinking about having to leave assets to their children, even older individuals have not prepared a will either. As many as 41 percent of individuals between the age of 55 to 64 have not yet had this document prepared. The importance of a will is that it tells everyone how you want your assets distributed after you pass away. However, it’s important to have the will executed properly so that battles do not ensue concerning your property. Will contests are common. These arise when there are unclear provisions in the will or when the will was not prepared according to the laws of the state in which you reside. Estate planning and probate involve many different considerations. Therefore, there are other documents besides will what may wish to consider having prepared. These include powers of attorney and living trusts prepared for when you are unable to make your own determinations on medical care or finances. It’s important to keep in mind that legislation regarding estate taxes periodically change. When laws take effect favorable to one’s situation, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the legislation while these laws are still in the books. In some instances, using certain strategies minimizes the taxes paid if paying taxes is unavoidable. Knowing the tax consequences of gifting certain assets allows you to distribute the gifts in a […]

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Avoiding estate planning mistakes

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Apr 14, 2015.

Estate planning is essential in making certain we preserve our property and pass it along correctly to the people we care for. The law in this area is complicated, however. Mistakes in drafting a will or not having assets properly sheltered leads to complications, expenses and possibly not even having our wishes carried out. Estate planning serves dual purposes. It allows for preservation of property and assets passed onto our loved ones. It also allows for us to have money during our retirement years or during a period of time when we are unable to work or care for ourselves. Sadly, many of us never put enough money away for retirement and are unable to hold onto our homes. Also, many of us do not get around to estate planning considerations until it’s too late. There are some things it’s always good to keep in mind: Having someone else look over your plans is always important. No matter how well we think we have our affairs planned out, there’s always the chance we could miss something. For this reason, estate planning’ attorneys provide an invaluable service in making certain expensive mistakes are avoided. There are many documents any adult with property and heirs need to have prepared. Besides a will, this includes preparing a health care proxy, living will, and power of attorney. These documents make certain someone we trust takes care of our affairs when we are unable to do it ourselves. It’s important keeping the people you care […]

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What is a personal representative?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Apr 13, 2015.

In the world of estate planning and wills, a personal representative is the person appointed by a testator to manage all the details and legal matters of the estate after the testator’s death. This is the person you appoint in your will to oversee the distribution of your assets, to pay your debts and taxes, and to make sure the particulars of your will are carried out. It’s a big job. A personal representative is a fiduciary — he or she has a legal duty to manage your estate with honesty and diligence, to act in good faith in all matters related to your estate. The law expects such a high level of integrity because the personal representative has a good deal of authority. When you die, your personal representative takes your place: He or she controls and legally possesses your personal property and your real estate (unless you have allowed an heir or devisee to live there, and the arrangement does not interfere with the rights of another heir or devisee). Your personal representative can liquidate your assets if necessary. If you owe a lot of money at the time of your death, or if your estate and inheritance taxes are more than your checking account can cover, your personal representative may even sell off your real estate to pay the bills. Many of the tasks of a personal representative are simple common sense: Find the heirs, distribute the assets, pay the bills and so on. What you need […]

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A closer look at the unique estate plan of the late Robin Williams

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Apr 4, 2015.

Much of the news coverage concerning the estate of the late Oscar winner Robin Williams this past week was dedicated to the ongoing legal battle between the late comedian’s wife and his three children from another marriage. As newsworthy as this was, it also served to limit the discussion of the rather innovative steps taken by Williams to protect his privacy and limit the potential tax liability of his family members. The terms of the Robin Williams Trust, revealed last week, expressly dictate that his right of publicity is to be protected from any sort of commercial exploitation for 25 years, meaning the earliest that anyone will see him in advertisements or even performing as a hologram would be August 11, 2039. According to legal experts, Williams was able to accomplish this feat by leaving the rights to everything from his name and photograph to his likeness and signature to a charity called the Windfall Foundation that he established with the help of his legal team. Aside from taking steps to protect his legacy and honor his charitable intentions, legal experts have also pointed out how the Robin Williams Trust also contained the relatively novel clause dictating that should the Internal Revenue Service disqualify the Windfall Foundation for a charitable deduction, his publicity rights should instead pass to other qualifying charitable organizations like Make-a-Wish. What this does, say experts, is limit the size of the federal tax bill that could otherwise accompany the income generated by these rights, which would […]

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