Category: Estate Planning

Pets and estate planning: Simple tips for success

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

In the hustle and bustle that occurs after a loss, many Pennsylvania families struggle to figure out how to best care for a beloved pet that is left behind. This is especially true in cases in which the death was sudden and there was no plan left in place for the care and custody of one or more animals. There are a few simple estate planning steps that can help ensure that one’s pets are properly cared for in the event of an owner’s death. Unfortunately, the only aspect of pet care and estate planning that is given any attention by the media is the use of trusts. In some cases, creating a trust that will cover the cost of pet care is an appropriate choice. An example would be an older dog that requires expensive medical care, or horses who require ongoing training and boarding. Most pets require a lower level of planning, most of which revolves around creating a base of information that can be passed on to the individual who will take over the animal’s care. A great place to begin is to compile a list of care providers and medical records. This can help the new owner continue the same level of care to which an animal has grown accustomed. If there will be a move, the new owner can ensure that those records are transferred to the new veterinarian. It is also helpful to include an overview of the animal’s personality, likes and dislikes. When […]


Estate planning: Revocable living trusts for business owners

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jul 9, 2015.

When an individual or family has worked for many years to build a successful business, one of their top priorities is ensuring that their children and grandchildren will have the ability to benefit from that investment of time and effort. There are a great many estate planning options available for Pennsylvania business owners, but many turn to a revocable living trust (RLT) to ensure that their intended heirs inherit assets as smoothly as possible. This powerful planning tool has a number of advantages, some of which are outlined below. A revocable living trust allows an individual or couple to exert a high degree of control over how assets will be passed down to their intended heirs. In situations in which one or more heirs may need a greater level of guidance or restraint when handling money, periodic disbursements can be set up, as opposed to a bulk inheritance that might be squandered. Another benefit of an RLT is the ability to avoid the probate process. For business owners, avoiding probate means that the details of their business and personal assets will be kept within the family. Probate is a public process, and the end result can be a loss of confidence on the part of business partners, investors, vendors and customers. By making use of an RLT, the details of how assets will be passed down to the next generation are kept private. In creating a complete estate planning package, an RLT should be accompanied by several other documents. The […]


A single person’s guide to estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jun 25, 2015.

When most Pennsylvania residents think about the creation of an estate plan, they focus on the eventual distribution of their accumulated wealth. This, however, is not the only function of the estate planning process. For single people, the focus is often on structuring a plan to cover one’s needs in the event of incapacitation. While drafting a will is always a good starting point, many singles go on to designate representatives who can handle various tasks in the event that illness or injury leaves an individual unable to perform those functions. In terms of making medical decisions, singles should consider designating a medical power of attorney. This person is tasked with directing the course of emergency and continuing medical care in the event of a serious illness or injury. Those decisions can and should be guided by means of a health care directive, which is a document that outline the type of care that the individual desires. Such directives can be as detailed as one likes, and specific types of medical interventions can be discussed within. When incapacitation occurs, medical care is not the only matter that requires attention. An individual can also designate a representative to handle all of his or her financial affairs if the need should arise. This can help ensure that bills are paid, pets are cared for and that one’s home is properly maintained if a serious medical emergency takes place. The individual chosen for this role should be trustworthy, and should be able and […]


Estate planning for same-sex couples

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

No two Pennsylvania residents will have the exact same set of estate planning needs. The manner in which these legal tools are drafted and combined is unique for everyone, and the estate planning process is one in which customization plays a central role. That said, certain residents will have specific needs that fall outside the norm. A prime example lies in same-sex couples, where a tailored approach is required. For same-sex couples, inheritance laws can be a challenge, as the legitimacy of same-sex marriage remains a topic of heavy legal debate. Couples who are unmarried, or who want an additional layer of protection as the legality of their union is under attack, may wish to take a more targeted estate planning approach. That planning begins with drafting a clear and valid will, in which one’s partner can be named as sole heir. In addition to a will, same-sex couples should also make the proper beneficiary designations. Accounts such as banking, investment and retirement accounts all ask for a named beneficiary. This person will inherit the assets held within those accounts at the time of the holder’s death, regardless of the presence or contents of a will. Also, same-sex couples who share a child should take steps to legitimize the legal relationship of both parents to that child. In some cases, this can take the form of the non-biological parent adopting the child. For other families, a written parenting agreement is a good fit, as is a document in which the […]


Helping business owners plan for the future

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on May 18, 2015.

Business owners often put their heart and soul into their business. Thus, for many business owners, their business represents not only a big financial investment, but also a big emotional and personal investment. Consequently, business owners often care very much about what will happen with their business when they retire, become no longer able to run it or pass away.  Thankfully, what will happen to a business in such circumstances is not something a business owner has to simply leave to chance. Advanced preparations can be made to set up what will happen in such an event. The process of making such preparations is called business succession planning.  Businesses are often remarkably complex things with all sorts of different moving parts and things to consider in connection to them. Consequently, business succession planning can also be quite complex and touch on a myriad of issues. How these various different complex issues are addressed in a business succession plan can have the potential to have significant future impacts on a business owner and their business.  Our firm is committed to using our extensive legal experience and business succession planning knowledge to help guide our business succession planning clients through the process of developing a succession plan. We understand how important having a good succession plan in place can be for a business owner and how to go about addressing the various complex issues that can arise in connection to business succession planning, and we strive to help business owners with forming […]


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 […]


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? […]


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 […]


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 […]


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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