Estate Planning Attorneys in Trevose, Pennsylvania
It is never too early to start thinking about estate planning. Even if you are young and healthy, it’s a good idea to have some basic information about what kind of estate plan you might need in the future—especially if you have children. If you are older and thinking about setting up an estate plan, you might be wondering what kind of estate plan would suit your family’s needs.
Whether you are curious about estate planning or want to begin the process of creating a will, trust, or power of attorney, contact us at Benoff Law Firm in Trevose, Pennsylvania. We have the experience, resources, and knowledge to provide personalized legal advice when crafting your estate plan.
Why Estate Planning Is Important
What Is It?
Estate planning is the process of legally setting down your wishes for how your assets will be managed after your death. It is important even if you are relatively young and healthy, especially if you have a large estate or if you have children or dependent family members. It is also important to set up a power of attorney if you believe you will need one; for example, a healthcare power of attorney can ensure that your wishes for medical treatment are honored.
Proper estate planning can also help you to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process by which a will is validated by the court and by which the estate is divided according to the instructions in the will. Placing assets in a trust can help you avoid the lengthy and often costly probate process as well as grant your loved ones some privacy, as trusts are not a matter of public record.
Finally, estate planning is essential if you have clear ideas about how you want your estate to be divided. If you die intestate (without a will), your estate will be divided according to state law.
If you die without establishing a healthcare power of attorney, you may find that the person the state appoints to manage your medical decisions is not the person that you would have chosen.
Documents That Might Be Included in An Estate Plan
A will is a document that allows you to legally state your wishes for the division of your estate and guardianship of minor children and dependent adults. In order to make a will in Pennsylvania, you must be 18 years of age and of sound mind. Also, you must sign the will in front of two witnesses.
If you die intestate in Pennsylvania, the court will determine who gets your assets. (Usually, spouses and children inherit first, followed by parents, then siblings.) If you’d like to divide your estate in any other manner than the way in which the state would—for example, if you want to leave specific amounts to your spouse and children, or if you want to leave money to friends or charitable institutions—you will need to have a will.
In addition, you will need to have a will if you wish to appoint a specific guardian for your children or any dependent adults; otherwise, the state will decide for you (starting with your nearest relatives).
After your death, the executor you’ve appointed will make sure that the directions in the will are followed. As stated above, wills must go through probate. If there are any assets that you do not want to go through probate, one alternative is setting up a trust.
If you would like your intended beneficiary to receive their inheritance directly, without that inheritance going through probate, you can set up a trust.
There are a few types of trusts. A revocable living trust is a trust that you create while you are alive. You (the “trustee”) will control the trust and the assets within when you are alive. You will name a “successor trustee” to handle the trust when you die and pass the assets in the trust to the intended beneficiaries.
Trusts can be revocable (that is, you can modify them after you create them) or irrevocable (meaning that they cannot be modified after you create them). Some types of trusts, such as special needs trusts designed to cover the medical expenses of dependent adults, are irrevocable.
Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives
A power of attorney gives you (the “principal”) the power to appoint someone else you trust (the “agent”) to legally make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. In order to create one, you must be of sound mind and you must usually be 18 years old or older.
A financial power of attorney gives someone the power to manage your money for you should you become unable to do so. You can create a limited power of attorney or a durable power of attorney to handle things such as business matters for a short time, but you may want to create a durable power of attorney (that is, one that continues past the point when you become incapacitated) if you are older, ill, or otherwise believe that you will lose the capacity to handle these matters yourself.
A healthcare power of attorney is another useful type of durable power of attorney. In Pennsylvania, a healthcare power of attorney is a type of “advance directive,” or legal document that makes your wishes concerning medical treatment known should you be unable to express those wishes.
One type of advance directive is your living will, in which you set down your preferences for healthcare, including whether or not you want life-sustaining treatments in certain situations. Your healthcare agent will be legally obligated to uphold these wishes and make any other necessary medical decisions.
Powers of attorney end upon your death, after which the executor of your will and the successor trustee of your trusts take over in managing your estate.
How Your Attorney Can Help
Not only can your attorney help you pick the right estate planning options, but they can also assist you in drafting enforceable documentation. They will make sure that all documents are filed correctly. Finally, they can handle probate and trust administration, which involves resolving any legal disputes that may arise during probate and making sure that the estate is divided according to your wishes.
Estate Planning Attorneys Serving Trevose, Pennsylvania
Call us at Benoff Law Firm in Trevose, Pennsylvania, for estate planning help. Our attorneys, Edward and Bart Benoff, are ready to discuss your options and help you create the estate plan that will secure your family’s future and grant you peace of mind. Call us today for an appointment.