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Blue Bell Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Tag: Estate Planning

Where do people get their estate planning advice?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Oct 21, 2016.

According to research, fewer than half of all American adults have taken the time to create a comprehensive estate plan. That leaves far too many people without the ability to direct the course of their own incapacitation care, or to hand down assets to their surviving loved ones. In order to understand why so many Pennsylvania residents have not addressed their estate planning needs, it is important to take a close look at how Americans seek and find information. In decades past, many adults turned to their extended family for financial management advice. Parents passed down skills and knowledge to their children, including a blueprint for creating a solid estate plan. Today, however, the manner in which we receive and share information is drastically altered from the path taken by earlier generations. Many adults today seek information exclusively from online sources. When it comes to estate planning, websites can offer inconsistent, misleading or simply false information. While there are number of excellent online resources that can guide families through various estate planning options, there are also plenty of sites that provide potentially harmful advice. Even more importantly, many estate planning options are highly complex and work best when used as part of a larger estate planning strategy. The best way for Pennsylvania residents to address their estate planning needs is to seek the services of a seasoned estate planning attorney. Working with a professional can not only make estate planning a faster and more efficient process, it can also reduce […]


Estate planning needs for families with children

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

For Pennsylvania parents, few things are more important than providing for the needs of their children. From the time a new baby is welcomed into the family until long after he or she graduates from high school, parents focus on ensuring that their kids have everything they need to thrive. In terms of estate planning, parents can take steps to care for their children even in the event of a sudden and tragic loss. One of the most important components of estate planning is designating a guardian to step in and provide love and guidance in the absence of one or both parents. When choosing a guardian, parents should take the time to consider all possible candidates. It is equally important to discuss the matter with the individual who is chosen, to ensure that he or she is up for the task. Parents also need to consider who will handle the financial aspect of things. In some cases, the chosen guardian can also assume responsibility for managing the financial aspects of the estate. In other cases, another individual is better suited for that task. This can be a tricky subject to navigate, but it is important that both roles are filled in the best manner possible. Pennsylvania families must take these and other related matters into consideration when creating an estate planning package. In most cases, those plans will never need to be called into action. However, in the event of a sudden and untimely loss, having these issues sorted […]


Estate planning, sitcom style

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

When it comes to celebrities making plans for their estates, many of the examples provided revolve around what not to do. However, a recently published article takes an unusual approach to the topic of celebrity estate planning. The piece focuses on the fictional families featured in the hit television series “Modern Family.” That show is a great catalyst for discussion on the matter, as there are several different family types featured in the storyline, just as there different types of families in Pennsylvania. The Dunphy family is a blend of many different types of relationships. The patriarch of the family is married to a much younger woman who has a child from a previous relationship. He also has two adult children from a previous marriage. In their example, estate planning would revolve around providing wealth for both his current wife as well as as his children and grandchildren. It would also be important to include his stepson into the mix. One of the adult children has a traditional marriage with biological children. For them, estate planning might focus on outlining the care needs of the parents while also providing for an inheritance for the children. The other adult child is in a committed same-sex union. For those characters, estate planning can be a bit more complex. A priority would be ensuring that the wishes of both parties were clearly outlined in regard to both long-term care planning as well as inheritance matters. Many Pennsylvania residents enjoy the show “Modern Family,” which takes […]


Estate planning for parents of addicts or alcoholics

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Sep 9, 2016.

The urge to take care of one’s children remains strong in the lives of Pennsylvania parents long after kids have reached the age at which they should be taking care of themselves. For parents who have adult children struggling with addiction, the desire to help them through those challenges can feel overwhelming. Estate planning becomes a far trickier proposition for these families who must balance the desire to provide an inheritance to their child with the need to avoid playing the role of enabler. One option is to place the child’s inheritance into an annuity. This ensures that the beneficiary will always have a stable source of financial support, no matter what choices he or she may make. However, annuities are inflexible investment options. If the adult child should need a larger measure of financial support, he or she would be unable to obtain additional funding from the annuity. This could prove to be an impediment to seeking treatment at a rehab facility or entering an outpatient drug counseling program. Trusts offer a greater degree of flexibility but require management. There are professional trust administration services available, but that approach comes at a cost. Some families choose to ask a responsible child or relative to manage the trust and decide whether or not to approve large disbursements. This approach, however, places the family member under a great deal of pressure and can have a negative impact on their relationship with the beneficiary of the trust. Determining which way to go […]


Failure to have strong estate planning measures may backfire

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Aug 11, 2016.

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the accepted premise is that anyone with an average number of assets needs to have an estate plan. There are many horror stories of substantial losses or inconveniences suffered by people who did not have an estate plan or who did not keep it updated. Partial estate planning can also leave a void that comes back to haunt the benefactor or the family later on. For a married couple, the failure to have an estate plan can lead to confusion, inconvenience, temporary lack of access to assets and loss of assets in potential cases to other persons not favored by the decedent. The problems of a married couple without an estate plan may be magnified greatly if it is a second marriage for both, or if one of the spouses has children from a prior marriage. Even with a will, there may be a significant problem if the decedent did not make provisions outside the will to assure the distribution of assets to children from a prior marriage. The last will and testament is the centerpiece of the estate plan. The will makes it all much easier and prevents the assertion of ownership of assets by those not included in the will. A person dying without a will leaves family members relying on the provisions of state law, which may not protect and favor the individuals that the decedent wanted favored. The failure to update the estate plan and to do normal housekeeping can also result […]


Estate planning for a second marriage

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Aug 5, 2016.

Falling in love is one of the most amazing experiences that a human being can have. When Pennsylvania residents are lucky enough to find love a second time, they are often excited to begin a new marriage. Starting a second family offers a range of challenges, especially for those who have children from a prior union. It is important to take a carefully considered estate planning approach to ensure that all of an individual’s loved ones are cared for when the time comes. In many cases, children are fearful that their parent’s new spouse will not have their best interests at heart in the long run. Virtually everyone knows of a family in which a second or subsequent spouse inherited everything, only to cut out children and other heirs who were not protected with proper planning. The best way to address these concerns is with a comprehensive estate plan that outlines the wishes of the parent. There are a number of options that give individuals the ability to provide for both their new spouse and existing children from a former marriage. Trusts are one option, as is titling certain assets jointly. In addition, a thorough will can outline which items of personal property are intended to go to which designated heir. When it comes to estate planning and second marriages, it is important to approach with caution. No Pennsylvania resident wants to alienate a new spouse, or cause children anxiety and concern. By addressing this issue early in the second […]


Lessons to be learned from Hillary Clinton’s estate planning

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Planning on Jul 29, 2016.

Part of the process of running for the office of the President of the United States involves disclosing one’s personal financial information. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently submitted her accounting of her family’s assets. Her disclosure has led to important estate planning lessons for many in Pennsylvania and beyond. Candidates are allowed to use wide value ranges to list their various assets, so the exact net worth of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s estate is not known. However, the public can see some of the couple’s estate planning measures, including how they have chosen to address one of their homes. The Clintons have placed the home into a residence trust in order to achieve tax savings when the property is eventually passed on to their chosen beneficiary. By placing the home into a residence trust (the Clintons actually split the value of the home between two such trusts), the property’s value for tax purposes will be frozen at the value when the trust was funded. That means that the gift taxes due from that transfer will be based on that value, which will likely be far below the eventual value of the home. Once the trust period comes to an end, the Clintons’ named beneficiary will receive the property. The catch in this estate planning approach is to choose the proper length for the residence trust. It should be long enough to allow for maximum appreciation, yet short enough to ensure that the owners do not pass away prior to […]


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 […]


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 […]


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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