Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Who Cares About Probate?

When it comes to probate, living in Pennsylvania saves you time and money.  Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania does not have a probate process that is time consuming or costly.  How does that compare to India? 

I will reach out to local Indian counsel regarding their views on this question and many others throughout the course of my Journey to India and share their answers with you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Journey To India: Bucks County Estate Planning Attorney Compares Probate, Trusts and Wills in India with U.S. laws

With its diverse religions and cultures, India is an ideal country in which to examine varying estate planning practices.  My study of these practices will enhance my knowledge and skills as an estate planning professional.

Join me as I explore this multifaceted country with practices that are intriguing, serene and diverse.  First stop is New Delhi.  Over 11 million people, of the 1.2 billion people of India, live in New Delhi.  For perspective, the population of U.S. is 317 million with just over 8 million in New York City and 1.5 million in Philadelphia.  Let's just say, New Delhi has lots of people who need Wills, Trusts and other estate planning.   

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Pennsylvania Power of Attorney Law

If you have not already done so, now is the time to get your Power of Attorney. Pennsylvania has adopted a new Power of Attorney law and many of the sections affecting the Power of Attorney form take effect January 1, 2015.

The changes to the Power of Attorney form itself include an updated notice for signing by the principal, the person making a Power of Attorney, and an updated acknowledgement for signing by the agent, the person appointed to serve on behalf of the principal. In our office, alongwith the principal signature, we require the signature of two witnesses before a notary. Under the new law, it is now a requirement. Finally, certain powers, such as the power of the Agent to make a gift or change a beneficiary designation, must now be specifically set forth in the document otherwise the agent does not have the power to perform these acts and others as listed under the statute.

Other than the requirements of the form, the new law addresses third party recognition and reliance on the Power of Attorney. If a third party (such as a bank) relies upon a properly prepared Power of Attorney document, the third party is immune from liability if it later turns out that the document is invalid. Often representatives of banks or other institutions refuse to recognize a Power of Attorney because it did not fit the form preferred by the bank or institution though such form had been prepared by the customer’s attorney.

The problem that still persists is that a bank representative or other party being asked to accept a Power of Attorney may request an opinion of counsel that the Agent is acting within the scope of authority granted under the Power of Attorney document. This could prove to be a burdensome requirement for the customer and will generally be addressed on a case by case basis until this is no longer a requirement.   

Contact us at 215-321-4033 for further information.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Today, It's Your Legacy

An important benefit of Estate Planning is creating a legacy.  Treasure your life's journey share your story or your family's story with us.  Be the next Guest on our Show, Today. It's Your Legacy or be the client spotlight in our newsletter or Facebook page.  Post your comment below for our consideration.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ten Years of Making A Difference in the Lives of our Clients

                                              Thank you for your support over the years. 

I choose Estate Planning because it allowed me to reach those who needed professional service at an affordable price.   We successfully help individuals, families and businesses plan for the people they love.  We focus on all aspects of our client’s life – their personal assets, business assets and more importantly their dreams for the future.

For 10 years, we have cared to listen to our clients and exceed their expectations and we look forward to another decade of outstanding service in probate, estate planning, guardianship, business succession planning and elder law.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Making a Difference

We have just celebrated the MLK Holiday with a day of service for many across the nation.  Carolyn Newsom, an attorney and intern at my office, recalls her father saying “we have a responsibility in life to put more jelly beans back in the jar than we take out.”   She expressed that “it was his folksy way of saying that we have a duty to serve others and to help make the world a better place in which to live.”

As evident in the rise of volunteerism, many others would agree with this “folksy” expression.  In honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., many organizations sponsored not only parades, speeches, panel discussions but also projects to clear vacant lots, help rehab a housing unit or plant a garden for a homeless shelter.  We have witnessed volunteers who helped victims of Sandy and other devastations.

 In addition to volunteer efforts, many people give their financial support.  With proper planning this support can also have a lasting impact.  Make charitable contributions a part of your estate plan which can establish the basis for continuation of your dream.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Federal Estate Tax

The American Taxpayer Relief Act which was signed into law on January 2, 2013 provided “permanent” (unless continued political debate over the federal budget result in further changes) rules that create a  more predictable environment for planning and decision making.  As pertains to the Federal Estate Tax the following is now in effect:

1.      Who has to pay federal estate tax?  If your estate is in excess of $5 million dollars (excess of $10 million for couples), the federal estate top tax rate would be 40%.  Your estate will not be subject to federal estate tax if your estate falls under these limits.

2.      Do spouses have to pay the tax when they inherit from each other?  The unlimited spousal deduction from estate tax still applies under the new law.  Though there will not be a tax upon the death of the first spouse, the tax would apply at the second spouse’s death if the estate exceeds the limits noted in the first question. 

3.      What is the status on lifetime gifts?  The federal estate gift tax exemption is the same as the federal estate tax, $5 million dollars, indexed for inflation. The 2013 exemption is $5,250,000.  Gifts in excess of the limit will have a top tax rate of  40%.  In 2013 you can give up to $14,000 to as many individuals as you like and this does not require filing of a gift tax return.    

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Health Care Expenses

I was reading an article recently in an AARP publication that experts now estimate a couple aged 65 will need nearly $250,000 in addition to Medicare, to pay for future medical costs.  This amount is much higher if nursing home care is ever needed.  More importantly, if planning is not done, children could be held responsible for their parents’ long term care debt.

Approximately 25% of seniors will spend some time in a skilled nursing facility and Medicare benefits for these services are conditional and time limited.  Therefore, the options for payment are, private pay (if you have the money), long-term care insurance (if you purchased when younger and healthy) or Medicaid.  Medicaid is only available to those eligible for the benefit.  An individual or couple is required to spend down assets to apply for Medicaid.      

In a recent case, the court held that a son was liable for his mother’s nursing home bill under Pennsylvania’s Filial Support law.  This law is not new but was rarely used to go after children.  Financing healthcare and protecting your estate can be complex.  Minimizing your risks requires planning and proactive action that should start with a comprehensive estate plan. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is Your Will “Fair”?

When it comes to your children, should everyone be treated equally? 

Sometimes parents have a difficult choice to make when writing a will.  One child may be financially successful and secure.  Another child could have a low paying public service job.  There may be a child with special needs or a child who is unable to manage finances responsibly.  While there may be good reasons to differentiate between children, unequal allocations of an estate can strain sibling relationships and create unintended ill will in the surviving family. 

So, what is fair?
Family dynamics differ.  The amount of assistance provided to children during life time maybe unequal.  The amount of care provided by one child for an aging parent can further complicate the challenge. 
So, what is fair?
Have you considered meeting with your children to explain your wishes and obtain agreement or, at least, understanding?   Unless you have discussed with your children any unequal distributions, I highly recommend equal distribution under your will.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Aftermath of a Hurricane or the Perfect Storm

I was talking to my Dad a couple of days before Hurricane Sandy (reduced to a storm at that time) was due to hit our area in Pennsylvania.  He had already referenced it as the perfect storm with 3 weather systems colliding, this time on land.  These perfect storm scenarios have happened out at sea but rarely on land.  But, here we all were waiting on land for the collision.

Though we were without electricity for 5 days, it was nothing compared to those who are still without electricity, have severely damaged homes; have no homes to go to; or, have loss loved ones in the aftermath of a perfect storm.  Many of us ask, how can we help?  What can I do? 

I was moved by my friend's story.  Though still without power in New Jersey, she was able to obtain a generator to use sparingly since probane was not easy to obtain.  She has now taken in a 94 year old and 91 year old couple who live in her neighborhood and has offered another spare room to her neighbors without power. Yes, in each of our own way, we can reach out to help. We do not have to wait for direction or permission or some organized venture. What can you share!! What can you give!! Answer and move on it!!
Felice Vazquez, 40, of Hoboken, greets a neighbor as she mans a table providing hot drinks and snacks on Washington Street as the buildings around them remain without power due to damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. (John Minchillo/AP Photo )

A good samaritan provides electricity for storm victims to charge electronic devices on 11th Street, Oct. 31, 2012 in Hoboken, N.J. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Workers try to clear boats and debris from the New Jersey Transit's Morgan draw bridge, Oct. 31, 2012, in South Amboy, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo )
People line up to fill gas containers at the New Jersey Turnpike's Thomas A. Edison service area, Oct. 31, 2012, near Woodbridge, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo )

People wait to use a pay phone on Bright Beach Avenue, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (John Minchillo/AP Photo )

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vidal Gore Dies at 86

The author, playwright, politician and commentator whose vast and sharpened range of published works and public remarks were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom, died Tuesday at age 86 in Los Angeles. 

Vidal Gore was revered by many throughout his varied and vast career.  His legacy included hundreds of essays, the best-selling novels “Lincoln” and “Myra Breckenridge” and the Tony-nominated play “The Best Man,” a melodrama about a presidential convention revived on Broadway in 2012.

How will you be remembered?  Contact us at for all your estate planning needs.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When sending your Child to College a Power of Attorney is a Must Have!

If you have a young adult (18 or older) or you are a young adult, it is important to have powers of attorney in place.  Parents are often surprised that they do not automatically have access to their child’s healthcare information or other college records.  If your child is in an accident, you do not want to go through red tape to address their health needs.  But, that is what will happen if the right documents are not in place.  
As a young adult, you want to have someone you trust and who cares about you available to handle your health issues and other affairs if you are in a car accident, have a serious sports injury or experience some other traumatic event.  Your medical information can only be shared with the person you designate.  Prepare for the unexpected to assure the road to recovery does not take a detour. 
Here are some answers to your important questions. 
When does an agent sign the power of attorney? The agent does not have to sign at the time that you sign your power of attorney. The agent's signature does not have to be notarized only your signature. Your agent signs when you are in need of their help. 

How do you revoke an agent's authority? You should maintain your original powers of attorney. If you no longer want a person to serve as your agent, then the powers of attorney should be destroyed and new ones entered into. If your agent has an original power of attorney, then you must get it back and destroy it. Otherwise, you have to inform those individuals who may rely on the power of attorney that you have revoked your agent's authority. ALWAYS appoint someone whom you trust.

Springing Power of Attorney.   There is another type of power of attorney referred to as a springing power of attorney. It can only be used if a doctor has certified your incapacity and such certification must be attached to the power of attorney for it to be effective. The springing power of attorney is revoked once you regain capacity.
Call me today and I'll get your child's Power of Attorney done before they leave for school.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Selecting a Guardian Might Come With Some Drama

Just before the news broke regarding the guardianship of Michael Jackson’s children, I received this question.  Can the selection of guardian for minor children withstand a legal challenge by the grandmother?   In this particular situation, a non-relative was chosen by a couple as the guardian of their children.  The wife’s mother was not pleased when she found out her daughter’s decision. 
Selecting the guardian for your minor children is one reason for having a Will.  Even though your selection could be challenged (it’s the American way), it does not mean it will be successful.  The courts generally uphold the appointment of the guardian selected by the parents. Any challenge would have to allege and demonstrate that the guardian selected is unfit or unable to properly care for the children.  The court considers what is in the best interest of the child.  Status as a relative is not a controlling or determining factor.  A grandmother does not have a legal right to override the parents’ selection merely because the grandmother prefers to serve or have a relative serve as guardian.  Parents are generally in the best position to determine who would be in the best position to care for their children.   
That being said, it is wise to have conversations regarding guardianship with those whom you know will be upset with your selection and work through those issues during your lifetime.  Further, you should update your selection as circumstances change, including aging, financial stability and interest.  It is not in your child’s best interest for them to be embroiled in a legal battle when they have already lost so much.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Importance for the LGBT Community to Engage in Estate Planning…

It is just as important, if not more important, for
couples of the same gender to engage in estate planning.
I was talking with a CPA specializing in estate planning about the unique tax issues that arise in domestic relationships. Specifically, she expressed that couples of the same gender, unlike married couples, have no IRS exclusion for property or monetary transfers between them. Such transfers could be subject to gift tax and transfer tax. If there are significant assets involved in a separation betweencouples of the same gender, even if the financial provider wanted to be fair with property division, the tax consequences may be prohibitive. After the lifetime exclusion of 5 million, which may go back to 1 million, the excess will have a gift tax imposed. The maximum gift tax rate in 2012 is 35%, and it may be raised in later years. The gift tax rate is a hefty tax for anyone to pay.
To the extent you can address tax situations as well as protect your relationship, cohabitation/domestic partnership agreements are advisable. They are particularly beneficial in the following situations:

1. when a second person's name is added to a deed after considerable equity has already been established in the home during ownership by the first owner. The agreement will help clarify ownership interest in the real estate.

2. when property purchased jointly is only held in one person's name

3. when one person is the financial provider and the other is a homemaker

4. when unequal contributions are made towards the purchase of jointly held property

5. when there is an interest in giving benefits or rights to another that are not required or available under the law

6. when assets are co-mingled or combined

7. when there are family members who may dispute the interest of a domestic partner.

It is always wise to have an agreement between couples of the same gender. There are many situations that we can not anticipate, and having an agreement in place is always helpful.

Call me today if you have questions pertaining to Estate Planning for the LGBT Community

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dark Knight Rises - Aurora, Colorado

President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie Aurora movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado.
When I heard about the tragedy Friday morning the 20th, my heart went out to all the families directly affected and all of us who can only imagine the pain.  We can not allow such senseless tragedy to take over even our simple pleasures. 

This pass weekend my family gathered to celebrate my mother's 76th birthday.  Of course, one of our usual outings with the children during these festivities is going to the movies.  But, naturally, we took pause as the Aurora tragedy continued to unfold.  No one was up for a midnight Batman so Spiderman won out.  Those going to the movie were much more vigilante in assessing their surroundings.  But, come on, is this how we must live our life?  Can we, as a people, as human beings, figure out how to take back control over the simple act of going to the movie with your children? 

I ask because I do not know the answer.  I blog, I tweet, I facebook, I ponder!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Planning Ahead - Get Your Affairs in Order

Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  I would be the first to admit that we certainly aren’t in control of as much as we’d like to think we are.  So, in my estate planning with clients, I like to take a look at where they have been.  That is the back story, the legacy piece that we ALL have and that keeps my work interesting, intriguing and varied.

More than plan, I create a map, of sorts, for my clients.  The future has many twists and turns, alternative routes, hills and valleys.  Our estate planning "map" could include Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Gifting, etc.  It provides for our intentions BUT allows the details to unfold in accordance with the universal principles.  The estate planning  "map" for each client has flexibility and often is updated with changing circumstances.

Once we have our  estate planning "map" which details our wishes, needs and desires, we can focus with clarity around our intent and accept that the details are not within our control, only our intentions.  Contact us at

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Will Serves Many Purposes

On this hot, 97 degree day in July, I share with you this hot tip.  Really, truly, for the most part, none of us know how we might die.  We know we will die, but not when or how.  So when folks say "I do not need a Will, I have "nothing"," I share this story.

A young man's mother was killed in an automobile accident.  The other driver ran a red light going at a high rate of spend in his deliver vehicle.  He survived with minor injuries and was declared to be at fault.  He was sued by the son for wrongful death of the mother.  The insurer for the driver's fleet of deliver trucks settled the suit for excess of $900,000.  Though the mother had "nothing" her estate now is worth $900,000.  Who gets her assets?  She was estranged from her husband for 17 years (never divorced) and she had 3 children (her son with whom she lived, a daughter with drug issues and another daughter who died leaving her only grandchild).

The intestate law would distribute the estate to the husband, son and daughter.  The grandchild would not be entitled to any of the estate.  Is this the result that would have been intended if a Will was done?

Contact us at for your probate, estate planning and elder law needs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beneficiary Designations are Important

I was recently working on an estate matter which demonstrated the importance of updating and keeping track of your beneficiary designation.  Many of our seniors obtain life insurance to provide for their funeral.  However, the person designated as the beneficiary does NOT have to use the monies for the funeral.  They could choose to keep the money for their own benefit.  

In this case, the person designated her brother as the beneficiary under her life insurance policy.  He had agreed to use the money to take care of her funeral expenses.  Since he WAS her closest living relative, he would not have to come out of pocket to bury his sister.  WELL, her brother predeceased her and her secondary beneficiary was her niece (her brother's daughter) who did not have the same interest as the decedent's brother.  The niece wants to use the insurance to purchase a house and is only willing to provide some funds towards a funeral.  What is to be done?  Either the other family members will have to all contribute towards a funeral or there will be a cremation or an inexpensive service, less than what would have been affordable with the insurance proceeds. 

SO, keep your beneficiaries up to date BUT more importantly it would be better to just prepay your funeral and not depend on others to use insurance proceeds in your best interest.  Contact us with your estate planning, probate, guardianship, and business succession planning needs at

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Prenuptial Agreements and the Business Owner

I was talking with a new business owner.  He just purchased a service station and was so excited about this new venture.  He had worked in the business since high school and so was quite sophisticated in business matters at such a young age of 29.  He had also met the love of his life on an on-line dating service.  Now, his dilemma is he wants to get married but does not want to have his business part of the assets of this new union.  Not a problem at all with the use of a Prenuptial Agreement.

A business owner may want to protect his exclusive rights to the business if the marriage fails, as in the case for this business owner, or control the diposition of the buiness after his death, ie. for parents or the child of a prior marriage.  For purposes of best practices, the following should always be consider and done:
1.  Make sure it is voluntary and not done under duress.
2.  Make a fair financial disclosure.
3.  Share the proposed agreement well before the wedding and even before the wedding date is set.
4.  Demonstrate some fair negotiation if one party clearly is less well off than the other.
5.  Each party should have their own counsel even if one has to pay for the others.
6.  Fairness should be demonstrated in the process when their is an economically weaker party.

Contact us for all your probate, guardianship, estate planning, business succession planning and prenuptial agreement needs at

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I am back to my blogging.  I started answering questions posted on AVVO.  As a result, I did not blog as much.  However, I think the information shared blogging helps people i n their quest to understand the world of estate planning.  AND so, I am back and will be posting more and more informative blog posts for you and your family. 

Today, I mentioned the importance of a Special Needs Trust to supplement funding to those with disabilities on governmental assistance.  Specifically, I am looking at the type of Special Needs Trust referred to as third party funded trust.  These are trusts that do not hold monies of the disabled person but money of one who wants to care for the disabled person, a parent, grandparent or other relative.  If you provided these funds directly to the disabled person, then their benefits could be affected.  You do not want to have that happen.  So look into creating a Special Needs Trust at your earliest convenience. 

We are here to help at

Friday, April 13, 2012

RSVP Today: 215.321.4033

You’re invited to our next Free Seminar

May 3, 2012

The Guardianship Process:
Learn How to Become Guardian for a Loved One

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston Dies at 48. A Legacy of Musical Talent

Whitney Houston was a Pop Diva of the 80's and 90's. with a musical career prior to that time and after.  We all have our favorite Whitney songs.  I loved her performance of "The Greatest Love of All", "I Wanna Dance with Somebody", "I Believe in You and Me" and my all time favorite is "I Will Always Love You".  I enjoyed her performances in The Body Guard and every Christmas we enjoy watching The Preacher's Wife. 

She is now among the many muscial giants who have passed on.  She will be missed and may her family, friends and fans find comfort in memories of her and the tremendous musical legacy she left behind.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Soul Train's Creator Dies at 75

I grew up on Soul Train.  I was a teenager when it first aired.   Top artists of the times appeared on Soul Train.  However, what stood out most for me, was the awesome dancing.  To this day, when you get a group of adults together at a party with great dance music, the "Soul Train" line is formed.  And the memories take over even though the body can not necessarily take you there!! 

Don Cornelius was clearly a legend who will be missed by family, friends and admirers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Legendary Coach Joe Paterno Dies at 85

For over  46 years, Joe Paterno served as head coach of Penn State's Nittany Lions.   He won over 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships- earning a spot in the Hall of Fame.  More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

What will be the legacy of this man who in the last few months of his life endured bitter scrutiny over a failure to take action that many felt he was compelled to take and did not?  Some still feel that he should and will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game.

When it is all said and done, it is our legacy that we leave behind.  Though we do not ultimately write it (some with forethought actually do), our life's work has to speak for itself.  The difference that we make while we live is the purpose that we served.  It should be how any fiinal act in our life is judged.

Contact us at for your estate planning, probate, guardianship and elder law needs.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Legendary Jazz Singer "Etta James" Dies

The legendary jazz and blues singer Etta James dies at 73.  She was a pioneer whose legacy will be remembered as her ever-changing sound has influenced rock and roll, rhythm and blues, pop, soul and jazz.  She was one of the most important female artists of her time. 

We will follow her estate as it is settled between her heirs. For now, we remember her music and her life.

Contact us at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Q and A about POA...

Question: My Dad made me his POA (2008) in 2011 he had a stroke, nursing homes, now he is home.
He has dementia now. Last week had a violent episode with me. He has a heart defibulator and
out of fear he would get sick I asked my sister to come and take him with her. Now she does not
believe he has dementia or I was even attacked and is discouraging him from coming back to his house.
He is left home alone during the day in her 1 bedroom appt while she works and he is diabetic on 2 types of insulin.
I live with him and am also his caregiver but at this point he does not want me to care for him
he believes he can care for himself.
Legally what can I do as his POA to get him back to his home safe environment or to an assisted living facility?
The Power of Attorney does provide you with broad authority to act on your father's behalf. However, he also has the right to revoke the Power of Attorney once given. If he is not in agreement with your actions on his behalf, it could become difficult for you to assist him. 

If you do believe he is incapacitated, you may have to go through the more formal process of Guardianship to accomplish your goals. This would require you to be able to demonstrate to a court that your father can no longer handle his affairs. This will have to be supported by physicians and other experts. You will need an attorney to assist you in this process if you believe your father's incapacity can be documented. 
To get your POA drafted today call us for an appointment!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are You Responsible for Your Parent's Debts?

This question is often asked in the nursing home context.  What obligation do children have to their parents when they are in need of continued care but can no longer afford it?

Well, Pennsylvania does have a Filial Support Law where a child may be held  liable for the debts of their parents.   How often it is used is unclear but it is on the law books and available to nursing homes trying to collect unpaid bills.

You  want to encourage your parents, or help them, to apply for medicaid if you anticipate they may not have the funds to continue to pay for their nursing home costs.  Many nursing homes will provide this support but are not all do so and further they may or may not adequately handle it.

Therefore, you want to be proactive and seek the necessary professional guidance so that you are protecting your parents as well as your financial security.  Contact us to discuss all your elder law and estate planning needs at 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!!!

Well it is 2012.  Other predictions notwithstanding, what are your desires for the New Year.  I have many and a few I share here with you:

When I open my mouth, I want words that are true, supportive and unhurtful to always come forth.
When I open my mouth, I want wholesome, lifesustaining and health promoting substance to go in.

When I open my eyes, I want to see the brighteness of the day and the good in humankind.
When I open my eyes, I want to take a reflective look at myself to make the change that I want to see.

When I open my heart, I want to love unconditionally.
When I open my heart, I want to be one with the Creator of all things.

I wish you much happiness and peace in the New Year!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How can I find out who the Beneficiary is Under a Life Insurance Policy?

There are so many issues that come up during the estate administration of a person who has died.  Often family members want to determine the beneficiary under any life insurance policy.  Further, if there are children of a prior marriage this information may not be easily attainable. 

Life insurance policies do not go through the probate process.  The probate process does establish a public file that any one can view.  However, the insurance policy is a private contract between the insured and the insurance company.  There is no real audit trail or documentation regarding who may have received insuarnce proceeds.  Therefore, it is important to let family members know about your insurance policy or at least the person that you named as beneficiary.  You do not want to leave your family members in the dark if they need to know. 

Put your affairs in order today.  Contact us at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beneficiaries of a Will Need to Be Timely with Complaints

A potential client called regarding issues with the executor of an estate.  The caller was a beneficiary under the Will.  However, it had been over 13 years since the Will was probated. 

It is important to be timely with any issues you might have when you are a beneficiary under the Will.  You want to make sure  you get the assets that you are entitled to receive.  You will impact your opportunity to obtain whatever monies you are due the longer you might wait to raise issues.

When a Will is probated, there are timeframes that must be met. The Executor is required to provide a status report to the Register of Wills within as well as file the inheritance tax return within 9 months of death. The estate can be closed out with either a final accounting to the court or a Family Settlement agreement.   If you are a beneficiary under a Will you have to be notified to properly closed out the estate.  You can obtain a copy of the probate file to see what has or is occurring.

Contact us for your probate needs and questions at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Without a Will - There Will be Unintended Consequences

I just recevied a call from a prospective client.  She had an issue that, unfortunately, happens to many people.  However, it can be avoided with proper planning. 

The caller's mother died without a Will and her primary property was her home.  Her husband predeceased her but her 2 children survived her.  The caller has lived in the home with her mother while her sister has never been involved with the mother or expressed any interest in the home.  Now, the mother has passed and guess who gets the home.  YOU GUESSED it, the caller and HER SISTER equally.

Even though the caller obtained Letters of Administration to handle her mother's estate, it does not give her 100% interest in the estate.  She did get appointed because her sister expressed no interest in handling the administration and signed forms to that effect for the Register of Wills, this did not serve as a disclaimer of her inheritance.  That is a separate "estate administration" process. 

So, encourage your loved ones to get a Will done so that unintended consequences do not happen to them.  Contact us for expert estate planning!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beware the Unintended Consequences

Over the last 2 days, I have discussed TOD, POD, Joint Ownership, Beneficiary Designations.  You want to title your assets to meet your specific needs and not have Unintended Consequences. 

If you retitle your asset into a joint title with rights of survivorship, you give up the right to give that asset to another person under your Will.  Similarly, when you create a POD bank account or a TOD brokerage account, you give up the right to leave the account to another person under your Will.

You want to have your estate plan handled by a professional.  Contact us at
for all your estate planning, estate administration and elder law needs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joint Title with Right of Survivorship

Two popular forms of joint ownership are Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety.  The Tenancy by the Entirety is limited to joint ownership between spouses. 

The Joint Tenancy allows joint ownership between any two or more persons.  One of the distinguishing features of both Joint Tenancy (with Right of Survivorship as oppose to In Common) and Tenancy by the Entirety is the Right of Survivorship.  When one joint owner dies, the deceased owner's interest in the asset goes to the surviving joint owner automatically.  This result is not affected by the deceased owner's will.

You want to make sure your property ownerships are done correctly by seeking expert legal advice.  Contact us at

Monday, November 28, 2011

POD Accounts and TOD Accounts

Many clients have asked whether Payable On Death (POD) accounts and Transfer On Death (TOD) accounts will have the same effect as a Will.  A bank account titled as a POD account with a seignaed beneficiary and a brokerage account titled as a TOD account with a designated beneficiary will be paid to the designated beneficiary regardless of the terms of the Will.

A POD is a bank account that enables an account owner to designate one or more beneficiaries who will receive the funds of the bank account at the account owner's death.  A TOD account is a securites account that enables an account owner to designate one or more beneficies who will receive the assets of the account at the account owner's death.

Therefore, it is important in estate planning to look at all your holdings and determine whether the arrangement meets with your intent.  We help you make sure that uninteded consequences do not happen to your family.  Contact us at

Monday, November 14, 2011

Final Accounting - Estate Administration

The administrator or executor of an estate must do a final accounting prior to distribution to the beneficiaries.  The final accounting can be done formally, ie. filed with the court, or an informal family settlement agreement can be used.  Even in the informal accounting, all assets and expenditures must be addressed. 

A question was posed regarding signing a waiver and release which holds the administrator and the attorney harmless for any mistakes or errors as part of receiving a distribution from the estate. The waiver seemed overly broad and there were concerns about signing.

First, you should be clear regarding what you are signing and that may mean you have your own independent legal review of the waiver you are being asked to sign.  In many cases, such waiver can be modified to be more limited in scope since generally a broad one is used even in cases where its application is not appropriate. 

For expert estate administration advice and guidance, contact us at

Friday, November 11, 2011

Intestate - Die without a Will

It is so important that you make a Will.  But, the question often arises what happens if you die without a Will?  If there is no Will at death, the intestate laws of the state apply. 

A question was posed regarding the death of a spouse leaving a wife and 5 children without benefit of a Will.  For real estate, if the property was owned jointly with the wife, the property will go by joint ownership to the wife.  The other assets would go as follows:  The first 30,000 would go to the spouse and the remaining would be split 50% to the wife and 50% equally distributed to the 5 children.  Note, this would include any real estate that was owned in the husband's name alone.  If any child is under the age of 18 their share will be held for them and given out right to them at the age of 18 years of age.

Would this be the result you would like to see for your estate?  Many would say no!  Save your estate by making a Will today.  Contact us at

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Long is Probate?

Clients often want to know should they set up a trust to avoid probate in Pennsylvania.  Though in some states, you want to avoid probate due to cost and the length of time involved, Pennsylvania does not fall into that category.  However, you still want to understand what the time period for probate might be. 

In Pennsylvania, the inheritance tax is due within 9 months of death.  Of course, you can file earliers.  Upon filing the return with the Register of Wills, you want to generally allow 4-6 months for processing by the Department of Revenue.  The Register of Wills serves as agent for the Department of Revenue.

Generally speaking the overall estate administration for most Pennsylvania estates with any complexity is 12 to 18 months if handled properly.  The clock starts to ticking upon the appointment of the estate administrator/executor.  Sometime that process may cause a delay if there is no Will or a challenge to a named Executor in the Will. 

The final step is a formal or informal accounting of the estate.  If done formally, it could take an additional 2-3 months to get a Hearing on the formal accounting.  If done informally, distribution would occur once all beneficiaries are in agreement with the settlement. 

You want the guidance of an expert attorney in this area.  Contact us at for all your probate needs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Power of Attorney - Does not permit your Agent to Make your Will.

One of my clients recently posed a question regarding the General Power of Attorney.  She serves
 as Agent under her mother's General Power of Attorney.  Her mother is now unable to handle any of her affairs.  She does not have the capacity to make a Will which she never got around to doing. 

Can her daughter make a Will for her mother?  Quite simply the power of attorney would not allow the daughter to make a Will for her mother.  Only the person making the Will can have one created for them.  If her mother still had capacity to make the Will but was unable to sign the Will, then many jurisdictions permit proxy signatures -- someone signing for the testator.

Therefore, though the daughter could provide a proxy signature, she could not handle the whole thing, from development to execution. That would effectively make the document her Will, and not her mother's.

Share your questions here for a response or contact us at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Are You Ready for Retirement?

I remember when I was a child how time seemed to drag on.  Summer was forever and of course the school year was forever as well.  Now, Summer breezes by; Fall leaves quickly, Winter thaws swiftly; and Spring flowers rapidly.  I suggest that if we were to slow down and stop doing, we could just be with the seasons. 

As we age, we should enjoy each season.  Planning for our retirement is a part of enjoying the seasons of our life.  Have you saved enough money?  Is your money invested safely?  Have you been able to eliminate all debt or at least most so you can live on less?  If you have not been able to answer yes to these questions, then now is the time to focus on what matters most, your retirement years. 

We help you plan for the future by reflecting on your past accomplishments, celebrating your present moments and enjoying the prospects for your future.  Contact us at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are You Living Your Relevant Life?

What is your legacy?  When you speak does anyone listen?  Does it move or change anyone?  Have others taken necessary action beneficial to them because of YOU

It could be hundreds, thousands or just one.  If you AFFECT the action of one or the actions of many and it made you feel alive, needed or energized, you are living your relevant life.  If that is not the case for you, what are you waiting for?

We take the time to assess the life you are living when we do your estate planning.  Through this process many come to understand what is most important in their lives.  It can be a time of profound discovery and potential CHANGE.

Contact us at for your estate planning needs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Legacy of Peace

The legacy we leave to our family is important.  Many also live a life whose legacy will change the world. 
The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday October 7, 2011 to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their work on women's rights. The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored the three women "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs - His Life, His Legacy

We mourn the death of a man whose technological advances were revolutionary.  Our regularly scheduled television programs were interrupted to announce his passing because his death was of such significant note.  BUT it was his life that was the most significant.  There are so many lessons from his life but four (4) stand out::  (1) Live Each Day as though it is Your Last   Stop!! Think, at this moment in time are you doing what matters most.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to you.
(2) Surround Yourself with Great People  Look!!  Are the people in your circle teaching you anything new or just draining you.  Connect with the best and let go of the rest.     
(3) It does not matter what others think.  Listen!!  You have to be unaffected by others opinions of you whether such opinions are Good or Bad if you want to be the master of your destiny.  
(4)    Find YOUR Passion.  Heart Centered!!  Where does your heart lead you?  What is it that makes you feel true to yourself.  What is it that you could do all the time and say "Oh, that is not work."  BUT in fact it is.  You have found your passion.  Go For It!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Discussing The Seven Principles of Wealth

In addition to discussing the 7 benefits of estate planning, I also covered the 7 principles of wealth during my presentation at the American Embassy in Jamaica.  

The 7 principles of wealth are (1) enjoy what you do; (2) have a budget; (3) put your money to work for you; (4) protect your resources (be prudent and wise/seek professional advice); (5) access whether to own or to rent; (6) save for retirement; and (7) increase your knowledge in order to obtain your specific goalsrainawoseve pay 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Discussing the 7 Benefits of Estate Planning

I covered 2 primary topics during my presentation at the American Embassy in Jamaica.  One was the 7 principles of wealth which I will post on tomorrow and the 7 benefits of estate planning. 

The 7 benefits of estate planning are (1) protect assets; (2) save money; (3) establish a legacy; (4) address special circumstances; (5) discern elder needs; (6) distribute wealth; and (7) obtain peace of mind.  

To learn more contact us at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Death is Life - A Reflective View of My Jamaica Journey

I share with you a link to one person's reflection on my visit. She served as the Public Affairs specialist for my trip.
Her words help capture the wonderful experience I had sharing my estate planning expertise in Jamaica.  I spoke to the retired community, American Embassy personnel, college and high school students as well as those in the legal community. 

Contact us  for your estate planning needs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Estate Planning- Preparing For A Prosperous Future

The Founder and CEO of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons ("CCRP") thanks me for my presentation to the CCRP during my visit to Jamaica.  Estate Planning: Preparing for a Prosperous Future was well received by those in attendance.  It was a rewarding experience to reach seniors and the retirement community in Jamaica.  Seniors around the world have made significant contributions to their community and so it is only appropriate that organizations are formed to address their unique needs and interests.  It was an  honor to present to such an important and distinguished audience.   
Yvette E. Taylor-Hachoose with Jean Lowrie-Chin of CCRP