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Estate Planning & Elder Law

Popular Misconceptions About Estate Planning

1. Only wealthy people need Wills. FALSE. Every person should have a Will regardless of the value of assets. A Will serves many purposes. It provides for disposition of assets, which should include personal goods, realty and monetary accounts. Without a Will, this disposition is governed by the Pennsylvania intestacy law, which provides for distribution first to spouse and children and/or grandchildren in set shares; thereafter, if no spouse exists, to children and/or grandchildren; and if none of the above, to the next nearest class of relatives still living. If no relatives survive, then the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will take the...

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Planning for the Disabled Beneficiary

Until recently, a disabled beneficiary was at risk of losing any benefit of an inheritance, and little could be done to protect the beneficiary’s rights. The Pennsylvania courts have now changed this harsh result. A disabled beneficiary is often a child who suffers either a physical or mental condition which makes gainful employment difficult or impossible. The child may have incurred a crippling injury or a mental illness, or may have mental retardation. Any of these persons is likely to have a need for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Pennsylvania Public Assistance. These programs determine eligibility based in...

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Preventing Lawsuits Among Family Members

Gifts from parents to children are often made and are a well-intentioned method of estate planning; however, problems can result which are preventable. Where a parent wishes to give a gift to one child among several, several steps should be taken to protect the recipient. Imagine the elderly mother who hands her diamond ring to the eldest of her three daughters. Mother dies shortly thereafter, having told no one else of the gift. The daughters review the contents of mother’s home and the two inquire as to the location of the diamond ring. The eldest daughter says she received it last...

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Nursing Home Sues Son for Mother’s Nursing Home Bill. . . and Wins

A child is responsible for the parent’s nursing home bill. Law in Pennsylvania has long provided for children’s liability under the Domestic Relations Act, 23 Pa.C.S. 4603, made law in 2005, but goes back to 1937. This is known as the Filial Responsibility Law. In the past, a child was seldom sued for the parent’s care, except in rare cases. If a child had recently received gifts from the parent, and especially if the child had used a power of attorney to take the parent’s assets, the courts held that child responsible as a matter of public policy. Once a parent qualifies...

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Making the Best Use of Estate Planning Professionals

By the time an estate plan takes full effect, its creator will have died making most changes impossible. Careful, thorough planning is crucial to avoid creation of problems for the family of the deceased. An estate plan should be developed with advice of the family attorney, accountant, and often a financial planner or insurance representative. Each professional should be advised of the work being done by the others to produce a comprehensive plan. The attorney will most often draft the Will and may recommend a number of other gift-giving, trust, and/or tax-saving devices. It may seem tempting to avoid the expense of...

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Living Together Presents Need for Special Planning

The number of couples living together without marriage has increased sharply in recent years. The law holds many benefits for married couples, but these do not extend to those couples who are only cohabiting. The unexpected death of one member of a couple is traumatic and emotionally difficult. If proper estate planning is done in advance, the loss need not be financially devastating as well. Under Pennsylvania law, married couples receive several special benefits. Property and assets, if held in both spouses’ names are presumed to be held as “tenants by the entireties” which means that both spouses own the entire property....

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Long Term Care Insurance: When & Why Should You Buy It?

1. Are you married? 2. Do you have assets you want to protect for your family? 3. Do you have a family business, farm or heirloom property? 4. Do you have more than $100,000 in assets and less than $3 million? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider purchasing Long Term Care Insurance (“LTCI”). The next considerations are affordability and eligibility. If you have little income or if you have significant health problems, you may not be able to purchase LTCI. You may apply to find out cost and eligibility. SHOPPING FOR LTCI – GUIDELINES A. Daily Rate: Minimum coverage of...

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Keeping Original Legal Documents Safe: The How and Why

You’ve just left your attorney’s office having signed your estate planning documents. These documents may include a Will, and one or more Durable Powers of Attorney. Your lawyer said to you “Keep these originals in a safe place and don’t lose them.” This sounds easy enough to do, but the lawyer never explained how to keep them safe, or the importance of keeping them safe. This article explores both these questions. The How Any secure place can be used to store original legal documents. The trick is to let a trusted family member know where these documents are stored, and how to...

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Early Planning Advised for Alzheimer’s Patients

The rise of Alzheimer’s disease has placed renewed emphasis on the need for older persons to engage in estate planning. The very least an older person should do is to consider signing a Business and a Health Care Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a document which enables the giver or “principal” to delegate powers to the recipient or “agent”. The agent can be any friend or relative and can also be a bank. The powers delegated can be as broad or as limited as the principal may choose. A limited power may cover only the ability to write...

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Trust Scams Still Hurting Seniors

“Come have a free lunch/dinner. Let us sell you a sweet deal. Just tell us a little about yourself. Send back this post card with your name and address. We want to help. You’re foolish if you don’t buy a trust package from us.” Sound familiar? This is the common sales pitch being used all over the U.S. to victimize senior citizens. Smooth-talking, total strangers give a speech and get personal information. A salesman calls on the elderly victim and talks a good story about horrible costs of probate. The truth? That salesman works on commission. He only gets paid if he...

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