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Estate planning is for everyone. It is not for just the elderly or for individuals with substantial assets in Scranton Pennsylvania. We have witnessed many unfortunate situations where family members dealing with the untimely death of a loved one are subjected to additional upset because the person died without a will, or with a will written many years earlier which is no longer appropriate for the family circumstances.
The basic purpose of a will is to provide for the disposition of your assets. In addition, your will designates who will play important roles after your death. The executor named in the will has the responsibility of making certain that the decedent’s wishes are carried out and that the estate is administered according to law. Parents of minor children should use their wills to identify the person(s) whom they would like to serve as guardians for the children if the parents die before the child reaches the age of eighteen(18).
Most wills provide for estates to be left outright to the beneficiaries, without any restrictions. However, some beneficiaries, because of their youth or other circumstances, would not be in a position to properly manage an inheritance. In those situations, a trust may be advisable. A trust is a legal arrangement whereby one party, known as a trustee (either an individual or a trust company), manages the assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Some clients have testamentary trusts included in their will, which go into effect upon their death.
In addition to a will, it may be advisable, as part of the estate planning process, to have the following documents in place:
• A General Power of Attorney (whereby you would authorize someone to handle financial and business matters on your behalf if you become incapacitated);
• A Healthcare Power of Attorney/Living will (whereby you would authorize someone to make decisions of a medical nature if you become unable to do so, and whereby you express your wishes about whether to receive life-prolonging medical treatments under certain circumstances).
Well-drafted estate planning documents should be clear and thorough to make certain that the decedent’s wishes are fulfilled.
There has been a great deal of false information spread about the probate process by purveyors of “revocable living trusts.” Many companies who sell living trust kits try to create fear by misleading the elderly. Despite the untrue claims made by these salesmen, revocable living trusts do not help with Medicaid eligibility for nursing home care, do not save inheritance tax, and do not speed up the process of settling a person’s affairs after death. In Pennsylvania, the probate fees on small and modest estates are usually less than $1,000, so does it make sense to pay $2,000 for a living trust kit to “avoid probate”?
The Pennsylvania Attorney General has brought legal actions against purveyors of living trusts in recent years because of the misrepresentations that have been made. Beware of these out-of-town scam artists and their high-pressure sales pitches! They do not maintain any presence in our community after making the sale, instead becoming unavailable to their victims.
• Estate Administration
• Elder Law