Category: Estate Administration

Making the case for professional estate administration

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Sep 12, 2016.

For many Pennsylvania residents, hammering out the details of a complex estate plan can be an arduous process. Once all of the documents have been properly drafted and all essential decisions have been made, the time comes to determine who will be tasked with handling estate administration duties. Many families assume that the role of estate administration should be given to a surviving spouse or adult child. In many cases, however, family members are poorly suited for the task at hand. For example, consider a family in which the husband has managed all aspects of household finances over the course of many decades. Although his wife may have only good intentions, she may lack the financial skills needed to handle estate administration duties. In addition, a surviving spouse is likely to be overcome with emotion after the loss of a partner. This is the worst possible timeframe in which to be asked to handle complex financial matters. In the case of adult children, there are many instances in which a child is ill-equipped to handle the responsibility of estate administration. Some may lack the emotional maturity or financial savvy needed to gather assets, contact the appropriate parties and proceed with distributing wealth and property to the designated heirs. In the worst-case scenario, asking a child to handle these matters can place him or her in a difficult position in relation to other siblings or extended family members. A solution lies in handing over estate administration duties to a qualified professional. […]

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Ease estate administration by making a personal inventory

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Sep 1, 2016.

All Pennsylvania residents are aware that the purpose of creating a comprehensive estate plan is to provide a means for handing down wealth and possessions to loved ones who will be left behind. In structuring an estate plan, there are a number of options available, and a solution for virtually every set of needs. When it comes to easing the estate administration process, individuals should place themselves in the position of the party or parties who will be tasked with handling this important role. Distributing assets and items of personal property can be stressful if the estate administrator is unsure of the full extent of those assets. For example, if a father has handed estate administration duties to his eldest son, that also places a heavy burden of responsibility upon his shoulders. When the time comes, the son will be expected to handle the transfer of assets and property to the intended heirs. However, if he is uncertain of exactly what is held and to whom each item should be distributed, stress and anxiety can result. The best way to address this issue is by taking a full inventory of all items of personal property, and including that inventory within the estate planning package. This includes items both large and small, as many seemingly invaluable items of personal property hold great emotional value for loved ones. In addition, it is equally important to review this inventory on an annual basis. Over time, property is acquired, lost, destroyed or sold. Having […]

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Estate administration in the digital age

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

In today’s increasingly wired world, there seems to be a app or software program for everything. In terms of estate planning, there are multiple companies that offer to store documents online, which can assist loved ones when the time comes to handle estate administration. That said, the online realm is also subject to attack from cyber thieves. Many in Pennsylvania are concerned about the security of these documents, and the risk that they or their loved ones could be the victim of theft if their estate plan is accessed by the wrong parties. One answer lies in creating a comprehensive estate plan that will be stored in both online and offline versions, and limiting the sensitive information that is contained in the online format. The reason that many people seek online document storage is to protect against the loss of estate planning paperwork and to make sure that the right people can access the plan when the time comes. However, there is no need to include many of the details that attract cyber thieves, such as Social Security Numbers, credit card and bank account numbers. Once a person has passed away, any open lines of credit will quickly be apparent to surviving loved ones in the form of mailed bills and notices. As for Social Security Numbers, that information is likely already known by those who would handle estate administration. When it comes to bank accounts, the named beneficiary would be able to access the account by simply providing various […]

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Easing estate administration for military families

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Jun 10, 2016.

Members of the armed services sometimes have unique needs when it comes to planning for their estates. This is especially true for young Pennsylvania families, where the financial stability of the entire family unit often rests on the income of the servicemember. This means that protections should be put into place to provide for the family in the event of the death of the breadwinner and to ease the estate administration process. Life insurance is a must for military families. A variety of policies are available, making it easy for families to find the level of coverage that meets their specific set of needs. Active-duty members are eligible for special term life insurance policies that are offered at a lower cost than other options. Individuals who will qualify for a military pension must also make a decision about whether to have a portion of that benefit paid to their spouse after the death of the servicemember. This can be a complicated decision, and it should be made only after considering the full range of options. Working with a financial planner can help make it easier to decide on a course of action. Above all else, military families can make estate administration easier by keeping all of the necessary paperwork in good order. Knowing where to find these documents in a timely manner can make a world of difference to loved ones. In many ways, estate planning is an act of love and a way to ensure that loved ones are […]

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Online storage can help with estate administration

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Dec 11, 2015.

After a loved one passes away in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, the person or persons entrusted to manage the estate will step into a very important role. Estate administration can be a challenging process and involves a number of important tasks. The first step in fulfilling that role is to access the full range of planning documents so that the provisions laid out within them can be undertaken. In many cases, finding estate planning paperwork is not a simple matter. Many people fail to talk about where these important documents are stored. In some cases, family members think that the documents are in one place, but are unaware that their loved one changed the storage location, began working with a new estate planning attorney or made other changes to the existing plan. A solution lies in online storage. There are a number of companies that offer these services, and consumers have a wide range of choices. Some companies offer a complete document storage option, and they will even guide clients toward additional estate planning approaches. Others serve as a simple go-between to notify loved ones of where the paperwork is stored when the time comes. The differences between various services give families the ability to find a solution that works for their particular set of needs. Online document storage can give loved ones the tools they need to begin the estate administration process. As technology improves, so will the options for online storage. For now, many in Pennsylvania view these tools […]

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Improve estate administration efficiency with good organization

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Oct 12, 2015.

Structuring a solid estate plan is the first step toward passing down wealth to one’s heirs. However, in order for the established plan to be effective, it is necessary to attain a high level of organization. The individual(s) who are entrusted with estate administration duties will be either empowered or limited by the organization of the estate plan. Pennsylvania residents should review their own estate planning package to ensure that the information laid out within is organized and easily accessible. Organization begins with a list of all of the pertinent documents that will be needed to settle an estate. This includes copies of the will, trusts and any personal documents such as letters to heirs. Having all of these items in one central location can make it far easier for the designated person or persons to begin the process of estate administration. It is also important to compile a list of all assets. This list will shift and change over time, as assets are acquired or sold. The list should include a description of each asset, where it is located and how to access account information, such as login and password details. It may be helpful to create separate lists for accounts (insurance, investments, savings) and items of property (real estate, vehicles, jewelry). Having a comprehensive breakdown of assets will help loved ones feel certain that they are not missing any items of value when settling the estate. A similar list should be made that outlines all of an individual’s […]

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Benefits of trusts within estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Sep 28, 2015.

When considering various estate planning options, many Pennsylvania residents feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. One of the biggest choices to be made involves which vehicle is best suited to hand down assets: wills or trusts. While each family has a unique set of needs, trusts are an attractive option for many people and provide a number of estate planning benefits over wills. Perhaps the primary benefit of using a trust to pass down assets is the ability to avoid probate. The probate process is time-consuming, expensive and often very frustrating to those left behind to manage the process. With a trust, the assets placed within that vehicle will pass on to the named parties in a very efficient manner, outside of the probate process. Another advantage that trusts have over wills is a greater level of protection for your heirs. When assets are placed within a trust, those assets become the property of the trust itself and not the trustees. Trustees have the ability to access those assets as designated within the language of the trust. However, those assets are protected from creditors and the property division process within divorce. This means that the wealth that you intend to pass down to a loved one will be received by that individual and not subject to loss based on legal matters. When considering the differences between trusts and wills, it may be helpful to gain the advice of an estate planning attorney. He or she can sit down […]

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The gift of professional estate administration

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Sep 17, 2015.

For many Pennsylvania residents, an important part of the estate planning process involves determining who will serve as the executor of one’s will. However, in many cases this is a determination that is likely to lead to a great deal of stress for the individual tasked with that role. It is worth considering whether obtaining professional estate administration services is a good fit for your family’s particular needs. An estate administrator will assume most of the tasks for which an executor would have been responsible. This includes calling a meeting to read over the will, as well as answering any questions that loved ones may have as to the reasoning behind the distribution of assets. An administrator is emotionally detached from that process and can provide answers that are based in fact, not emotion. As a contrast, imagine your loved one standing before gathered heirs and trying to conduct an objective reading of the will. He or she is already dealing with an emotional reaction to the loss and is now asked to answer for estate planning decisions that he or she did not make. When loved ones have questions that the executor cannot properly answer, the result can be a high degree of animosity among heirs and a great deal of stress for the executor. Professional estate administration is in many ways a gift that an individual can give to his or her loved ones at a time when such a thoughtful act is needed the most. Allowing all […]

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The role of executor in estate administration

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

Most Pennsylvania residents are aware that drafting a will is one of the best ways to ensure that assets pass down to their intended heirs. Many are unclear, however, about the role that an  executor plays within the estate administration process, and how to make the right decision for that role. The following information is offered in the hopes of clarifying what will be expected of an executor, and what considerations should be made in selecting the best possible fit. The executor of one’s will is responsible for filing the will to begin the probate process. From that point, he or she is expected to pay the debts held by the estate and also pay for any probate-related fees. It is important that the will enters into probate in a timely manner; failure to meet certain deadlines can cause the estate to pass as if there were no will in existence. The executor is also responsible for the distribution of assets laid out within the will. As such, he or she will need to know where assets are located, and how to access those assets. Having a comprehensive list of all accounts, property and other holdings can make the job of executor far easier to manage. When moving through the estate planning process, many Pennsylvania residents find that they do not have a good candidate for the job of executor. In such cases, a bank that has a designated trust department may offer a good fit. One’s estate planning attorney […]

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The role of the beneficiary within estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Jun 8, 2015.

Signing off on that last estate planning document is a wonderful thing. Many Pennsylvania residents feel a great sense of relief when the process is complete and are glad to have provided for the division of assets in the event of their death. That said, it is not uncommon for individuals to hold misconceptions about estate planning, one of which involves the power of named beneficiaries. Many types of accounts require the holder to designate an individual who will receive the wealth held within that account upon the holder’s death. Examples include bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement savings vehicles. Employee benefits also ask for a beneficiary designation, such as deferred compensation agreements, stock options and employment contracts. In the event of one’s death, the individuals named as beneficiaries on those accounts will receive the wealth held within. This is true even when a great deal of time has passed, and when the holder has drafted a will that excludes the individual from any other form of inheritance. Beneficiary designations are something of a trump card with estate planning, and they should be given proper consideration. During the estate planning process, Pennsylvania residents should take the time to contact the administrator responsible for each account to determine who is the named beneficiary. Changing that designation is simple, but unless that step is taken, the person named as beneficiary will inherit the value of the account. Checking one’s beneficiary designations should be done at any point where a significant life event […]

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