Understanding Power of Attorney and What It Means For Estate Planning

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 2

As we touched on in the previous chapter of our Complete Guide to Estate Planning, power of attorney (POA) is an essential estate planning document that gives a trusted individual or individuals, which you designate, the power to act on your behalf.

These designees are referred to as your “agents” or “attorneys-in-fact,” and they can take any action specified in the document such as managing your general affairs if you are unable to do so, or simply completing a single project for you, like selling your home. POA designations are flexible and can be shaped to accommodate a variety of circumstances.

Have you been wondering whether designating a power of attorney for yourself or a loved one is a good idea? Or perhaps someone close to you has asked you to take on this responsibility for them?

As part of our ongoing post series, comprehensive estate planning information is right here on our blog to make navigating the ins and outs of estate planning in Pennsylvania easy and worry-free. Today’s post offers a closer look at power of attorney designations, why they’re important, and how you can set up clear and effective POA documentation for greater peace of mind.

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More on Estate Planning Basics: What Documents Do I Need?

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 1

It’s true that estate planning primarily involves the creation of legally valid documents and directives that accomplish your end-of-life wishes. While it also calls for thoughtful conversations with loved ones and often a bit of soul-searching, it is strategizing with an experienced estate planning advisor and assuring that you have all of your documentation in order that is ultimately crucial.

As part of our ongoing post series, your complete guide to estate planning is right here on our blog to make navigating the ins and outs of estate planning in Pennsylvania easy and worry-free. Here’s what you need to think about in terms of key estate planning documents.

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Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning

While it’s true that many people don’t enjoy planning for the end of their lives, a solid estate plan is an invaluable gift to your family and others you wish to remember. And the best way to create your will, decide whether trusts are right for your financial situation, or designate a power of attorney, among other planning matters, is to work with a reputable probate and estates lawyer to guide you.

Today we’re beginning a new post series here on the blog to show you everything you need to think about as you go through the estate planning process, including how to find the most experienced probate and estates attorneys right in your local community. We invite you to stop back frequently for updates and learn more about the estate planning services that the best law firms have to offer.

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Why Living Trusts Do Not Make Sense for Most People

As we’ve often discussed here on the blog, having a well-designed estate plan – no matter the value of your property and assets – is a gift to your family and/or friends who will handle your affairs once you’re no longer living. And there are a lot of things to consider when working through the planning process.

From creating your will to ensuring that someone you trust is designated to make decisions for you via power of attorney should you become seriously ill or incapacitated, there is much to know and understand – especially if minimizing complications for your loved ones is your priority.

One component of estate planning that may fall under creating more complications for executors and heirs is the living trust. While these asset-protective arrangements have great value in some specific circumstances, unfortunately, living trusts are often sold to people who do not actually need them, and the truth is that they don’t tend to make sense for the average individual or estate plan.

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Understanding Death Taxes

Benjamin Franklin once wrote in a 1789 letter, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This bit of wry humor is true, of course. And in our modern time, we’ve figured out how to combine those certainties with what are commonly known as “death taxes.”

As with most things today, the term “death taxes” is politically charged – the name was devised (likely in the 1990s) to describe estate and inheritance taxes by opponents looking to have those repealed. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful, but the morbid name stuck.

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What to Expect During Probate in PA

In an earlier post here on the blog, we discussed the steps you should take to begin probating an estate in Pennsylvania. Today we’re picking up where we left off to let you know what you can expect once the probate process is underway.

It’s true that probate can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and it’s important to approach the responsibility in an organized manner. Once you’ve worked through all of the preparatory steps and paid the filing fee, it’s time to get down to the business of probate.

Don’t forget to stay organized, and remember that you can consult an attorney at any time for help if you get stuck. Just because you have not worked with an attorney from the beginning does not mean that you can’t call for a rescue if you run into trouble with creditors, family members, or anything else about the probate process.

Here’s what will happen next now that probate is open. Continue reading “What to Expect During Probate in PA”

A Step-by-Step Guide to Opening Probate in PA

Most people are overwhelmed by the idea of probating an estate in Pennsylvania, if they even understand the process at all. For good reason, no two estates are alike and not all will even require the formal probate process. For those that do, probate can become time-consuming and expensive, depending on the total value of the estate and other factors related to debt and assets. So it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you’re facing the probate process.

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Avoid the Pitfalls that can Derail Your Estate Plan

Because there are so many ways that your wealth and assets can be passed on to your surviving family members and other heirs, it is easy to ruin even carefully thought-out estate plans. Your last will and testament may not be the final word on how assets are distributed to others, although many people mistakenly believe this is the case. Beneficiary designations on financial products, for instance, can override your will, and many common estate planning pitfalls may cause heartache and infighting among family members. Protect yourself by getting to know the major “land mines” that can potentially blow up your estate plan. Continue reading “Avoid the Pitfalls that can Derail Your Estate Plan”

7 Common Mistakes Executors Make During Probate

Few people feel fully prepared when they are named a Personal Representative (an Executor, or Executrix) in a loved one’s will. They are often worried about knowing how to probate an estate, what to do, and when to do it. And about making mistakes.

These worries are common, and completely understandable. Legal processes are daunting to most people to begin with, and figuring out how to probate an estate while grieving the loss of a loved one is even more so. On top of that, Personal Representatives can be held personally financially responsible when they make a mistake that results in a loss for the estate, making it sometimes an even more stressful experience.

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Help for Potential Guardians of Minor Children

For parents, a key component of estate planning is often selecting potential guardians for minor children should something tragic happen to one or both parents. These considerations can be double-sided emotionally and difficult to face. On the one hand, who would ever take care of your children just like you would? Facing such a decision also brings to light many fears and concerns. On the other hand, making the decision can be freeing in a way, because you know your children will be cared for if something happens.

Our firm understands the struggle that parents might face when dealing with such a decision, and we also understand the concerns that a potential guardian faces if the actual appointed time comes to pass. Many people agree to be named as legal guardians without ever really thinking the situation will occur where they will have to take charge of the children. That doesn’t mean they don’t love the kids or want this responsibility, but when the time comes, a guardian can be suddenly overwhelmed with the reality of the responsibility. Continue reading “Help for Potential Guardians of Minor Children”