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A dual-pronged approach to marital and estate planning

5/26/2016 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

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 heirs are able to retain the assets that are handed down to them.  

Source:, “Defeating the Three Big, Bad Wolves of Estate Planning“, Robert T. Napier, May 12, 2016