Blue Bell Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Get long term care planning options through a qualified attorney

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Long Term Care Planning on Jul 14, 2016.

Long term care in Pennsylvania does not necessarily connote the need for medical attention. The concept also applies to needing assistance in the daily activities of life, such as bathing, getting dressed, taking medicine, grocery shopping, paying bills, managing money, house cleaning and cooking. Several studies indicate that out of those who are 65 or older right now, a whopping 70 percent will need some form of long term care for an average of three years. This connotes the need for long term care planning. Some of that care will not have to be associated with institutionalization and can pertain instead to in-home care. Whether it be minor in-home assistance or full housing in a nursing home, the facts show that this kind of service is expensive by any standards. One of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that the care that they will need will be paid for by Medicare. That is not true. There are a few minimal programs under Medicare, but the only federal government program that funds long term care is Medicaid. This assistance for Medicaid, however, comes with strings attached. A person must consult with an elder law and estate planning attorney to put Medicaid planning into effect. Medicaid planning involves spending down or transferring assets so that one qualifies for the government assistance. There is a five-year look-back provision which requires that the person stay alive for that five-year time in order for the transfer of properties to be final and thus allow […]

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A generation-skipping estate planning strategy

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jul 8, 2016.

No two Pennsylvania families will share the exact same set of needs and goals when it comes to making plans for their estates. Fortunately, there are a multitude of options available and a solution to suit virtually every scenario. One estate planning option that is often overlooked involves retirement trusts. The appeal of a retirement trust is that it allows wealth to grow tax-free for a lengthy period of time. These trusts are funded with various retirement savings vehicles, and the trust itself becomes the technical owner of the assets once the trust is funded. With a retirement trust, the creator’s children agree to disclaim some or all of their inheritance in favor of passing those assets down to their own children. When the account holder reaches the age of 70.5, required minimum distributions (RMDs) are triggered. Those distributions are small and will have a minimal impact on the value of the assets over time. Best of all, the account holder’s children can use their own retirement ages to trigger the RMD, which gives the assets even more time to grow. In the end, assets placed in a retirement trust can exponentially grow in value from the time the trust is funded until the time the grandchildren receive those assets. This can be a great option for Pennsylvania families in which the middle generation is financially stable. For those who would like to learn more about this and other estate planning strategies, an appointment with an estate attorney is a […]

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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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Understanding various estate planning terminology

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jun 23, 2016.

For most Pennsylvania residents, planning an estate is an unfamiliar process, one that is undertaken only a few times in an individual’s life. Each state has a body of laws that guide the estate planning process, and most residents are unfamiliar with those laws and the related terminology. Gaining a clearer understanding of various terms and practices can help individuals reach an estate planning solution that works for their unique set of needs. One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of estate planning is the difference between a will and a living will. A will is the legal document that outlines how assets are to be divided in the event of a person’s death. A living will, on the other hand, is a legal document that gives loved ones and health care professionals guidance as to how a person wants his or her medical care to be handled in the event of incapacitation. Both of these documents can be revised as many times as needed, and they should be periodically reviewed to make sure that the provisions within are still in line with one’s wishes. Another common source of confusion is the difference between a power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. The former is a legal document that authorizes a proxy to handle an individual’s legal and financial matters in the event of incapacitation. A health care power of attorney is more limited in scope and authorizes a proxy to make decisions concerning medical care if […]

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Serious problems with CBS media mogul’s estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Probate Litigation on Jun 21, 2016.

Some in Pennsylvania have been following the saga surrounding billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone, which has been playing out for some time now. Redstone, now 93 years of age, is worth an estimated $5 billion and has a controlling interest in both CBS and Viacom. Redstone’s personal life has become tabloid fodder after several of his former partners released information concerning his sexual habits. However, Redstone is now embroiled in a battle over who will control his estate planning, a decision that will now be made by the courts, and which could result in an outcome that is far different from what Redstone intended. At the heart of the matter is a debate over whether Redstone is capable of making his own decisions and of directing the course of both his medical care and his business interests. Redstone created a trust to control 80 percent of his company, known as National Amusements. National Amusements holds 80 percent of both CBS and Viacom. The other 20 percent of National Amusements is owned by Redstone’s adult daughter, who was previously estranged from her father. A primary trustee is the chief executive of Viacom, who is also a longtime personal confidant of Sumner Redstone’s. The daughter and the trustee are now fighting over who should control Redstone’s interests, and whether the current trust structure is an accurate representation of his intentions. A great deal of money is at stake in the matter, and the legal fight is expected to continue for quite some […]

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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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Don’t assume that marriage covers all estate planning bases

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jun 2, 2016.

There are many myths surrounding the topic of inheritance, many of which are based in nothing more than commonly held assumptions. One of the most prevalent of estate planning myths is that married spouses who wish to leave everything to each other do not need to create a will. It is important for Pennsylvania couples to understand that no matter what one’s marital status, if an individual dies without a will, the rules of the state will dictate how assets are divided. Many couples feel that the wealth that they have accumulated is their own rightful property, and that when the time comes for one spouse to pass away, the other should inherit the whole of the family’s assets. There is nothing wrong with this approach. However, simply deciding these matters as a couple is insufficient to make those intentions become reality when the time comes. When a person dies without a will, state law dictates how his or her assets will be divided. This means that all surviving relatives may have a claim to those assets, not just the surviving spouse. It is easy to foresee how quickly a family can dissolve into contention when there are substantial assets on the table. Not only may the surviving spouse lose a portion of his or her intended inheritance, but there could be lasting damage to multiple family relationships. The best way to ensure that one’s wishes are carried out is to create a clear and comprehensive will. This estate planning […]

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A dual-pronged approach to marital and estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on May 26, 2016.

Planning for the future is one of the most savvy moves that any Pennsylvania resident can make. This is true in regard to personal financial planning, and also for estate planning. One approach helps to ensure that assets are protected during one’s lifetime, while the other ensures that those assets are handed down in the manner of one’s choosing. One way to combine those efforts is to think about the risk that an heir could lose a sizable portion of his or her inheritance. Divorce represents the most significant risk, as statistics show that many marriages will not stand the test of time. If proper precautions have not been taken, an inheritance could become part of the property division process. A great way to protect an inheritance is to hand down assets in trust. A well-drafted trust can ensure that the beneficiary does not actually “own” the assets placed within the trust, even though he or she can benefit from those assets. The trust itself will be the actual “owner” of the assets, which can protect the wealth held within from attack from outside. An additional layer of protection can be obtained by encouraging one’s heirs to draft a prenuptial agreement prior to walking down the aisle. Within that agreement, it is possible to state that any inherited wealth would be excluded from the property division process. The combination of proper estate planning and a premarital contract can effectively shield an inheritance from loss, and can help ensure that Pennsylvania […]

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Aspects of long term care planning for Baby Boomers

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Long Term Care Planning on May 20, 2016.

Members of the Baby Boomer generation are now entering retirement at a rate of approximately 3.5 million each year. As these Pennsylvania residents continue to age, they will begin to have specific needs that must be addressed. Those needs can best be looked after through through and informed long term care planning, as part of a larger estate planning package. A common issue that many older people face is the fact that they created their estate plans many years before those plans would need to be called into effect. Early planning efforts are admirable, but many people fail to alter those plans as circumstances shift. An example is found in the common choice of each spouse naming the other as their agent in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. A problem arises when a couple is fortunate enough to grow old together, and then begin experiencing cognitive decline at around the same time. This could result in a situation where one spouse requires the other to act as his or her health care or financial proxy, but when the named spouse is not capable of fulfilling that role. That outcome will defeat the intended purpose of naming a power of attorney. The best way to address this issue is to periodically review existing estate planning documents, and to make alterations as time goes on. At some point, it may make sense to name a child or other trusted party as power of attorney for both spouses, so that […]

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Another reason to add life insurance to estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on May 13, 2016.

Many Americans think of insurance policies as safeguards against the unpredictable nature of life. There are policies that can help pay for health care, auto repairs and damage to one’s home. Purchasing insurance is required when a home or vehicle is financed, and many in Pennsylvania purchase other types of coverage simply to have a degree of peace of mind. When it comes to estate planning, there are certain types of insurance that should be considered. It is estimated that as many as seven out of 10 people who are nearing the age of 65 will eventually require some type of long-term health care. However, only one out of 10 people have purchased long-term care coverage to help with that expense. The reason why many people shy away from long-term care insurance is the fact that there is no benefit from such a policy unless the policyholder ends up having to seek long-term medical or nursing care. Often, people are more comfortable buying a life insurance policy that will ensure that their beneficiaries are taken care of after the policyholder has passed on. What many people don’t know is that there are life insurance policies available that include a long-term care rider. This means that if the policyholder ends up needing long-term care, the death benefit can be accelerated and can be used to help fund a move into a long-term care facility. Best of all, if the policyholder does not end up needing long-term care, then the full value […]

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