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Tag Archives: estate planning

estate plans -Top Rated Estate Planning Attorneys in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The L:aw Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C.

First Line of Defense is Offense- Estate Planning to Take Control of Your Affairs

There are many financial decisions you can control to maximize your estate for your heirs after you pass.  Now more than ever, it is crucial to make sure your affairs are in order.  Pennsylvania is one of several states that still has an inheritance tax.

The tax rate for Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax is 4.5% for transfers to direct descendants, your lineal heirs that includes children, adoptive children, stepchildren, grandchildren, and parents. The tax rate jumps to 12% for transfers to siblings, and 15% for transfers to other heirs, except charitable organizations, exempt institutions, and government entities that are exempt from tax. Property owned jointly between husband and wife is exempt from inheritance tax, while property inherited from a spouse, or from a child aged 21 or younger by a parent, is taxed a rate of 0%.

Thus, the biggest decision and tax saving method is deciding who will inherit from your estate.  Your spouse will pay nothing, your children or grand children will pay 4.5%, brothers and sisters, 12%, and your neighbor and friend will pay the most tax at 15%.  If you have no direct heirs or spouse and will be giving your estate to an unrelated party, you should speak with an attorney or accountant to minimize the Inheritance Tax due in Pennsylvania.

It is also very important, especially if you have a large estate, that your Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return is filed timely.  Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return is due nine months from the date of death.  Interest accrues by the day for any return not timely filed.  If you are inheriting from an estate and/or are the executor/executrix, be mindful of the Pennsylvania deadlines.  It is very helpful to have an attorney probate an estate for you.

            There are some assets that are exempt from Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax.  These include life insurance and certain retirement accounts.  Maximizing your contributions to these assets can save thousands for your heirs.

Most importantly, it is also necessary to have a living will should you find yourself unable to make important medical decisions.  A Pennsylvania living will is also known as an advance directive. Your living will lets you state your wishes about health care in the event that you can no longer make your own health care decisions, you are permanently unconscious or have an end-stage medical condition.  A Pennsylvania living will also names an agent who will make medical decisions on your behalf. There are state laws that explain who can and can't be named as your agent. A Pennsylvania living will must be signed by two witnesses.  While the law provides competent adults with the legal right to make their healthcare decisions in advance of becoming incapacitated, it also provides physicians and other healthcare providers with the right to notify who you appoint if they cannot comply with the directive in good conscience.

Who you appoint to make these critical decisions about your health and assets lets you take control of your affairs for your loved ones.   Estate planning is also critical in protecting your heirs from Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax.  Additionally, estate planning minimizes the chances of family strife and ugly legal battles.  Nothing is more upsetting then siblings fighting over money, racking up legal fees and draining an estate. The bottom line is if you want your assets and your loved ones protected when you are no longer here, you will need an estate plan. Without one, your heirs could face huge tax burdens, and the courts could designate how your assets are divided.  Taking control of your affairs now can protect your assets and loved ones for decades to come.

will preparation and contest

Last Wills and Testaments – Estate Planning

Last Wills and Testaments

are the last people think of when they talk to their families, friends or spouses.  Most people find talking about creating what we call an “Estate Plan” is morbid.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It is a wonderful gift you can give your family and friends.  It not on leaves your family knowing your exact wishes, but it also can help them move through the Probate process faster.

When creating your Estate Plan, you will receive three documents which each have different meanings and uses.  A Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directive. Below each document will be described.

A Last Will & Testament provides who will be handling your Estate once you have passed and also who will be receiving what assets, the percentages of the disbursement, Guardians and Trustees (if there are minor children) and who may be disinherited.

You will need choose who you would like to be your Executor (Male) or Executrix (Female) to handle your affairs after you pass.  Which means who do you feel most comfortable with handling the Probate portion of your Estate.  Most married couples use each other, but you could have your parents, siblings, children (if they are over age of 18) or friends.  You will also need to choose a back up Executor(rix) who will take the place if the first does not survive you more than thirty days or chooses not to handle the Probate.

If there are minor children, you will need to choose who will be the Guardians.  Of course, whether married or not, the minor child will be “willed”, so to speak, to the surviving parent.  UNLESS, the surviving parent has given up all parental rights.  If there is no other parent, then you may choose whom you feel most comfortable with leaving your children too.  You may want to think about who sees your children the most and who they feel comfortable around.  You will also need a backup Guardian for them.

The next item is the Trustee for the minor children.  Just like the Guardian, this would have to be someone whom you feel most comfortable handling your children’s finances who will make the right financial decisions for your children.  They will have complete control over the child finances, which comprise of their education, clothing, activities, etc.  You will also need to decide at what age(s) you would like your children to receive their portion of Trust that is left for them.  Typically, this is set at ages 25, 30 and 35.

The final item to discuss is who will inherit what.  Typically, spouses are the first to inherit all assets in the Estate, then the back-up is the children, other family members or friends.  This is based on a person to person basis.  This is something that would solely be your decision.

Moving on to the next document, the Power of Attorney. The Power of Attorney allows whom every you choose, again someone you trust, to assist in your finances, real estate, etc., if you become incapacitated.   You will need what is called an Agent and a back-up Agent in the event the first Agent does not survive you more than thirty days or declines to assist in this aspect.

The final documentation is the Health Care Directive, also known as the Living Will.  This is an extremely important document as when you go into a hospital or healthcare facility they ask if you have a Health Care Directive.  Before surgeries, before any procedure, etc., if you do not have a Health Care Directive, they have you sign their form.  This form allows you to advise your Successor or back-up Successor, what your wishes are.  Some of the decision on this document you will make is whether you want to be left on life support and a feeding tube or to have your organs donated.

The best step to have these documents prepared is talking to an Estate Planning Attorney.  They will lay out exactly what you need to get started.  They will complete the Estate Plan for your review and contact you to review and finalize all documents.  Once you have the Last Will & Testament and Power of Attorney signed, witnessed and Notarized it becomes a legal document in the State of Pennsylvania.  The Health Care Directive only needs to be signed by you and witnessed.  Each document must be witnessed by two individuals who are not named throughout any of the Estate Plan.

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