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Estate Planning & Elder Law

Business Power of Attorney

A Business Power of Attorney enables one person to conduct the affairs of another. The Power of Attorney can be broad or it can be limited to suit the needs of a particular situation. The Power of Attorney becomes effective upon signing and can be used anytime thereafter. One who gives Power of Attorney is known as the principal, while the recipient is the agent. Although a Power of Attorney should be prepared by a lawyer, the agent is not required to be a lawyer and usually is a family member. In considering whether to enter into a Power of Attorney, the...

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All Trusts Require Frequent Review and Updates

Most estate plans include a trust in one form or another. The purposes and uses of trusts may vary widely, but all trusts should be reviewed frequently and updated. A testamentary trust is written within a will and does not take effect until death. A revocable living trust, sometimes called “inter vivos” meaning created during life, is a separate document. Both types of trusts are revocable and can be amended or restated by the owner. Changes in family circumstances and changes in the law are constantly happening and can have drastic impact on the terms and effectiveness of a trust. It is...

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Estate Planning for Oil & Gas Landowners

Millions of dollars are changing hands from oil and gas developers to landowners in Pennsylvania. Advance planning for succession can drastically reduce the taxation and costs of passing wealth to the next generation. If a landowner has substantial acreage, the best time to plan for succession is before any oil and gas lease is signed. Once a lease is signed, the value of the land increases. After a successful gas well is drilled on or near the land, its value increases even more. For example, a father owns 200 acres which he has farmed for a generation. It has a fair market...

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Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney can be executed to appoint an agent to make decisions for the principal, such as to admit the principal to a hospital, to hire or terminate doctors and nurses, and to arrange rehabilitation or long-term care. The Health Care Power of Attorney should contain a specific appointment of the agent as “health care representative” so that the agent will have access to private health care information; without this specific authorization, an agent may be told that the doctors, nurses, or hospital staff are unable to disclose private information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability...

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Why Homemade Wills Do Not Work

Many people believe that by merely writing down on a piece of paper what they want done with their property, they have created a legally enforceable Will that will be honored by the court. This is nearly never true. Your Will is only important after you have passed, and thus are no longer able to explain what you meant when you wrote it. Further, if someone were to challenge the Will by asserting that you were in a weakened or confused condition when you wrote it, you would not be able to explain that you were in a perfect state of...

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Changes to Medicare Coverage for Nursing Home Care

Medicare has traditionally covered costs of a limited period of nursing home care. A patient who was hospitalized for three days or more and who then moved into a nursing home at the recommendation of the treating physician was eligible for Medicare coverage. This coverage provided for payment in full for up to the first 20 days, plus a portion of the daily rate for up to an additional 80 days. Although limited, Medicare coverage has been a tremendous help, especially to patients who were admitted to nursing homes for rehabilitation. A patient who suffered a fall with broken bones and...

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Beware Trust Scams and Trust Salesmen

Every year, Pennsylvania residents are bombarded with mass mailings and advertisements that promise them that a trust will save their estate and their heirs lots of money. In fact, door-to-door salesman will visit homes and explain to residents that the resident will pay thousands of dollars in Pennsylvania inheritance tax and fees if they do not set up a trust. Do not believe these advertisements or these salesmen. These campaigns, which are based on false and misleading information, lead consumers to believe that a trust is an absolute must and that it will save them huge sums of money. Many of...

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The Second Marriage: Protecting Two Families

A high percentage of widowed or divorced persons remarry. Each spouse may come to the new marriage with children of his or her first marriage. The new marriage may also produce children. Serious consideration must be given to the planning of parents’ estates in this complex situation. Prior to entering into a second marriage, one should consider his or her own assets, and also those of the prospective spouse. If either party has assets of substantial value, it is wise to consider entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. In such an Agreement, the parties agree that each retains his or her separate...

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Steps to Take When Nursing Home Care is Recommended

When a doctor tells a patient that they need skilled nursing care, the patient, and his or her family, often experiences a wide range of emotions. They often do not think to consult an attorney. Given that the average monthly cost of nursing home care in Pennsylvania is $8,766.39 (in 2014), speaking with an attorney may create significant savings for the patient and/or family. Talk to your doctor and medical care professionals to discuss the patient’s diagnosis, likelihood of recovery and return home. Arrange for maximum level of therapy and care in the hospital. Discuss with the hospital financial representative...

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Probate & Avoidance: Weighing the Risks

Probate is the process of opening a decedent’s estate. If a Will is found, it is filed with the County Register of Wills and its instructions must be carefully followed by the named Executor. Where no Will exists, an estate Administrator is selected from the nearest degree of relatives. It is necessary to commence probate when the decedent had assets in his or her own name which are valued at more than $50,000, and in all cases where the decedent held title to real estate. Probate will be done in the county and state where the decedent last legally resided, and...

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