Category: Estate Planning

Estate planning beneficial at any stage of life

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

Estate planning is often neglected, as people in Pennsylvania may prefer not to talk about death, or they become wrapped up in their busy lives. However, estate planning is designed to assist people with managing and preserving their assets while they are alive. Estate planning additionally enables people to control and conserve their assets’ distribution following their deaths. What an estate plan looks like depends on one’s wealth, health, lifestyle, goals, life stage and age. Incapacity has the potential to impact a person at any time. Thus, it is wise for people over the age of 18 to have a durable power of attorney. This document allows people to name others to manage their property for them in the event they become incapacitated and, therefore, cannot do this themselves. People who are young and not married would benefit from putting a will together. If they fail to do this, any wealth — no matter how little — that they leave behind if they die will most likely go to their parents. This may not be what one wants to happen. With a will, a person can let his or her possessions go to anyone he or she chooses, such as a favorite charity, other relatives, siblings or even a significant other. With a will a person can posthumously control what happens to his or her valuable assets. This ensures that the person’s wishes are met and that the intended beneficiaries receive the desired assets. Proper legal guidance may help people […]

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Estate planning beneficial at any stage of life

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

Estate planning is often neglected, as people in Pennsylvania may prefer not to talk about death, or they become wrapped up in their busy lives. However, estate planning is designed to assist people with managing and preserving their assets while they are alive. Estate planning additionally enables people to control and conserve their assets’ distribution following their deaths. What an estate plan looks like depends on one’s wealth, health, lifestyle, goals, life stage and age. Incapacity has the potential to impact a person at any time. Thus, it is wise for people over the age of 18 to have a durable power of attorney. This document allows people to name others to manage their property for them in the event they become incapacitated and, therefore, cannot do this themselves. People who are young and not married would benefit from putting a will together. If they fail to do this, any wealth — no matter how little — that they leave behind if they die will most likely go to their parents. This may not be what one wants to happen. With a will, a person can let his or her possessions go to anyone he or she chooses, such as a favorite charity, other relatives, siblings or even a significant other. With a will a person can posthumously control what happens to his or her valuable assets. This ensures that the person’s wishes are met and that the intended beneficiaries receive the desired assets. Proper legal guidance may help people […]

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Will digital wills become the next estate planning norm?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Oct 30, 2015.

For many in Pennsylvania, technology has become an integral part of everyday life. People turn to the digital realm to find recipes, connect with friends and family, and find videos on how to repair our vehicles. It should come as no surprise that technology can also provide estate planning solutions, although there is some debate over the wisdom of relying too heavily on such new tools. Digital wills have received a great deal of attention recently. These estate planning tools allow users to create a comprehensive estate planning package then upload those documents to be stored online. This means that when the time comes to turn to those documents, loved ones will be able to access all of the information they need in one central location. This appeals to many who worry that their important paperwork could be lost due to fire, flood, theft or other calamities. Some worry that their loved ones will simply be unable to find the documents when the time comes. Others are concerned that heirs might experience high levels of stress over the possibility that some documents might be missing. When considering digital wills, it is important that Pennsylvania residents understand that there are potential drawbacks to these tools as well. For one, there are issues of security to think about as estate planning documents contain a wide range of personal and financial information. Also, if the company that provides the online storage goes out of business, clients could be left with no ability to access […]

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Second marriage prompts estate planning changes

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

When entering into a second or subsequent marriage, Pennsylvania residents are often overwhelmed with gratitude at having another chance at love. In the fog of this gratitude, however, lurks the risk of making significant financial mistakes. Estate planning is an area in which many spouses fail to make changes or adjustments as they tie the knot a second time. The extent of the estate planning that many spouses undergo is to leave everything to each other, with the understanding that the surviving spouse will pass down wealth to the children of both parties. The flaw in this plan is that it fails to recognize the fact that people move on after the loss of a spouse. For many, this means moving on to a new spouse and perhaps even additional children. At that point, the surviving spouse will take on an entirely new set of priorities, which is perfectly normal. Those priorities may not include providing financial support to their stepchildren from a previous marriage. In this way, one’s adult children can be essentially cut off from their intended inheritance.    The best way to safeguard against this outcome is to structure a trust to pass down wealth to one’s children. A trust can be created that will provide financial support to a surviving spouse, while ensuring that remaining wealth is passed down to adult children and grandchildren. In this estate planning approach, Pennsylvania residents can ensure that their intentions are followed through on, no matter what the future might […]

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Estate planning tips for unmarried couples

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Sep 10, 2015.

More and more people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are choosing to alter the way in which they express their commitment to a partner. Rather than taking the traditional path of marriage, many couples choose to live together in a family structure outside of marriage. Regardless of the reasons behind such a choice, it is important to note that unmarried couples do not share the same rights as those who choose to walk down the aisle. This is especially true in regard to estate planning. For example, many people go through one marriage and divorce and decide that they do not want to encounter that particular set of legal difficulties in the future. They may go on to live within a fulfilling and loving relationship for many years, purchasing property together, planning for retirement and generally combining resources. However, if one partner dies without a clear estate plan in place, much of the couple’s shared property could be subject to loss during the probate process. In the absence of an estate plan, a probate court will be tasked with determining how to distribute the decedent’s assets according to state laws of intestacy. The law generally favors surviving blood relatives over unmarried partners, although each case is unique. In the worst case scenario, an individual could lose assets that he or she helped to acquire, all because there is no written legal directive to make the decedent’s final wishes clear to the court. In order to protect each other, unmarried partners should […]

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How to choose the best possible estate planning attorney

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Sep 3, 2015.

Estate planning is an event with which many in Pennsylvania have very little experience. This means that when the need arises to find a good estate planning attorney, many people have no idea where to begin. They realize that finding the best possible match is important, but they are not sure how to attain that goal and fear having to resort to searching online and choosing from random listings. A better approach is to begin by making a call to an attorney with whom you already have a relationship. Whether a professional who has assisted with a divorce, a civil dispute or another legal matter, attorneys tend to network with their colleagues from other areas of practice. Place a call and ask for a referral to a good estate planning attorney who has a practice in your area. Once a short list of attorneys has been compiled, schedule a set of initial appointments. During those meetings, pay close attention to each attorney’s approach. It is important to select a professional who is willing to listen to your goals and address any concerns about the overall process. This is also the time to ask about the estimated timeline and cost of the estate planning process. Take the time to meet with several candidates who were referred through trusted sources. Then, listen to your gut when it comes to making a choice. The professional relationship between a Pennsylvania client and his or her estate planning attorney may be brief in duration, but […]

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Young adults have specific estate planning needs

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Aug 27, 2015.

Many Pennsylvania readers are aware of the recent death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of musicians Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. The 22-year-old passed away after being found face down in a bathtub in her home, and living in a comatose condition for nearly six months. Because she did not have the proper estate planning documents in place at the time of her incapacitation, her family was thrown into a tumultuous struggle over which party was entitled to direct the course of her medical care. Young people do not have the same estate planning needs as older adults. Often, there is very little in the way of assets that would be distributed in the event of death. However, incapacitation is a risk that everyone faces, regardless of their age. When a young adult becomes incapacitated due to a serious illness or injury, the course of their medical care can become a significant matter of contention among family members. This is especially true in cases where a young adult’s parents are no longer together and do not enjoy a healthy relationship. When parents do not see eye-to-eye on medical treatments or interventions, a nasty legal battle can result. In the case of Bobbi Kristina Brown, her mother predeceased her and her maternal family was at odds with her father over how she should be cared for once she slipped into a coma. These matters can be cleared up by drafting an advance health care directive package that clearly lists the person […]

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A fast and effective yearly estate planning checklist

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Aug 20, 2015.

Most Pennsylvania residents are aware of the importance of creating a fully fleshed-out estate plan. They may even be aware of the need to periodically review their estate planning package to ensure that their current wishes are properly documented. That said, actually sitting down and completing this task often falls by the wayside as individuals and families focus on more pressing daily obligations. Having a basic checklist in place and working through that list on an annual basis is a great way to ensure that one’s plan is fully up to date. During this annual review, individuals should begin by considering if their family dynamic has shifted during the past year. Changes in family structure can occur through marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. Any of these changes can necessitate a change in one’s estate plan. Failure to update a plan can lead to a number of problems at the time of one’s death, including disputes between family members or the unintentional disinheritance of a loved one. Next, it is important to consider whether any real property has been acquired in the previous year. If so, those assets should be addressed within the estate plan, including being placed within a trust if that is part of the larger estate planning track. It is also a good idea to consider if any accounts have been opened that require a beneficiary designation and to look at how those designations may shift the ultimate distribution […]

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Estate planning rules affected by recent Supreme Court ruling.

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

With the recent Supreme Court case in which same-sex marriage rights were the central focus, a number of other legalities concerning gay couples were also affected. One of those areas involves estate planning. Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania and across the nation will now have the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to matters of inheritance and incapacitation planning. One of the most significant aspects of the legitimizing of same-sex marriage involves the portability of one partner’s estate tax exclusion amount. Currently, that threshold sits at $5.43 million. Wealth accumulated beyond that point is subject to estate taxes. Prior to the recent Supreme Court case, same-sex partners were unable to take advantage of portability, which allows one spouse to retain any unused credit when his or her partner passes away. Now, however, same-sex partners will have full portability rights, which can greatly reduce the tax burden that the surviving spouse will eventually incur on his or her own estate. Another benefit now afforded to same-sex couples who marry involves the ability to be assigned the role of conservator or guardian in the event that one’s partner becomes incapacitated. While having the status of “spouse” over that of “partner” does not necessarily mean that a court will grant those rights, it is certainly a more likely outcome now that same-sex marriage has been legitimized at the highest judicial level. That said, it is always a good idea to draft the proper paperwork to designate power of attorney, guardian and other […]

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Does your estate planning package include these items?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Aug 6, 2015.

When reviewing one’s estate plan, it is easy to overlook items that can make a big difference to loved ones. While most Pennsylvania residents who go through the estate planning process are able to take advantage of the more common documents and tools to craft their plan, many will leave out important items. The following are just some of the less obvious estate planning components that are available. One very basic form that can make it far easier for loved ones to sort out one’s affairs is a list of all assets and where those assets are located. By having the ability to access a list of assets, the individual(s) who will handle one’s estate can be assured that there are no items of significance that are being left out. This can also help reduce the risk of one’s will being challenged in court, because all heirs will have the ability to see the full range of assets and will know that everything has been included. Another commonly overlooked estate planning addition is personal correspondence with the friends and family who are left behind. Writing personal letters can help loved ones move through the grief process, and can add a very heartfelt touch to the often dry and impersonal documents that define an estate plan. In addition, an individual can include his or her reasoning for various inheritance choices within these letters, which can make it easier for heirs to accept those choices. When considering one’s estate planning package, many […]

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