Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tenancy By The Entirety

For married individuals, the home is generally owned as Tenancy by the Entirety which means that both, husband and wife, own the whole. When one spoues passes the entire property will belong to the surviving spouse.
The real estate therefore passes via the joint ownership known as Tenancy by the Entirety. It does not pass via provisions provided in ones Will. Only upon the death of the second spouse, if the home is still owned and the deed has not been changed, does the real estate pass under the terms of the Will.
Contact us at should you have any questions on Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tangible Personal Property

I draft Wills all day long. I therefore take for granted certain terms that lawyers use all the time in their Wills. However, I realize that many of those terms which are standard to me are totally new and sometimes confusing to clients. Therefore, I always find questions posed by clients of value in making sure terms are understandable.

Here is one that often baffles people, tangible personal property. There are 2 types of property, real and personal. Real property is easy to explain. It is real estate, the home and land.
Tangible personal property is everything else, unless something is specifically excluded. It represents your personal possessions which includes household furnishings (not including fixtures) jewelry, cars, china, books, artwork and other tangible belongings. It even includes "money" in any form (cash, bonds, annuities, etc.) unless it is excluded from the definition of tangible personal property.
It is your Will and if there are words that you do not understand or do not make sense have your lawyer explain or change it to be understandable to you. Contact us for your estate planning and probate needs at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Legacy Lost??

I was saddened to read about the status of Rosa Parks' Estate. Apparently, there has been litigation over her estate since her death in October,2005 at the age of 92.0 The cash value paled the "value" of her memorabilia. Often referred to as the Mother of the Civil Rights Moment" her medals, paper and even clothing carries such significant historical importance which can equate to an invaluable collection. However, this all can be clearly distorted in any protracted litigation or dispute.
What does this do to a legacy of strength, perserverance, faith in the face of adversity? It is not only for me and those who lived during her lifetime; but, for the younger generations and those not yet born that the physical representation of her legacy must be protected. It serves to educate and inspire those exposed to the memory of an historical ICON.
Contact our offices for your probate, estate planning and elder law needs at

Monday, July 25, 2011

Legacy - Take Time to Reflect and Create

Until you die, you are creating your legacy that will last well after you die. How long depends on you and the legacy you create and preserve.

You can make a monetary bequest/gift to your family or you can give to charities that reflect your values and beliefs. What you leave can be tangible (cash, house, car) or intangible (wisdom, ideals, philosophies, principles). However, you can only be impactful in the way that you desire if you plan ahead. Otherwise, your legacy will be left to the whims and fantasies of others.

What we do is work with you to make sure your wishes and desires are documented. Contact us at for all your estate planning needs.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Capture Your Legacy

As you prepare for your weekend, think about all that you have accomplished in your life. If you are so inclined, write those things down on a piece of paper and read through them again. Take the time to celebrate this list during your weekend. Feel free to share this list with family or friends or just keep it to yourself, if you prefer.

It is my wish for you that all that you have accomplished to date is just a reminder to you of what can be done in one's lifetime and to just imagine how much more can be added to that list during the rest of your life.

We celebrate life and living in our estate planning practice. Let us preserve your legacy. Contact us at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Little Help

I just watched this clip and thought it would be an interesting movie to see. You never know when something may happen to you or the one you love (or not). Planning now can save a lot of anguish later. Let me have your thoughts once you see the movie. I will comment further as well when I see it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Divorce and Death - What you need to know.

You probably do not even think about all the details of a divorce until you are in the middle of one. That may not be the most appropriate time for you to make rational decisions affecting the rest of your life. But, be that as it may.

What you need to remember, whether you are getting a divorce or not, is that upon death money is distributed 4 ways: by Will, Trust, Joint Ownership or Beneficiary Designation. You need to make whatever changes are necessitated by the divorce in all 4 of these areas.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Divorce and the Special Needs Child

A divorce is multifaceted. Therefore, if you are able to move towards a collaborative divorce, it could provide the best alternative to look at all aspects of your life and divorce. Specifically, in addition to divorce attorneys, financial advisors, mental health professionals, you want to make sure an estate planning attorney is involved.

A Special Needs Child will still require the emotional and financial support of both parents, even more so after the divorce. You can handle the emotional side with the help of mental health professionals. A Special Needs Trust could serve to address handling financial needs. You do not want the divorce to affect any public benefits currently available to your child. A neutral party could serve as the trustee and make sure those supplemental needs that you might want for your child are addressed.

We can help you. Contact us a for your estate planning, probate and elder law needs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Your Ex-spouse still a Named Beneficiary Under Your Insurance Policy?

A client called to ask me a question for one of her customers. The customer's ex-wife died. They had been divorced for several years and, as of the date of her death, the children were still minors. The ex-husband "alleged" that it was his ex-wife's intent not to change her life insurance policy. However, the insurance company refused to issue the $250,000 death benefits to the ex-husband.

The question asked was whether the insurance company was correct in not releasing the check to the ex-husband. Well, I pondered the question. The policy is a contract between the insurance company and the insured, now deceased. She named her beneficiary and never changed it even well after the divorce. However, you have to also consider case law and any statutes that might change the basic contract analysis.

ANSWER: The Ex does NOT get the $250,000.
STATUTE: A statute in PA provides that if an ex-spouse is still named as a beneficiary under a life insurance policy upon the death of the other ex-spouse then such ex-spouse will not be entitled to the death benefits. There would have to be CLEAR intent (ie. provided in the divorce decree) that the deceased person intended for the ex-spouse to receive such death benefits.

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Divorce - When Should I update My Powers of Attorney

Another estate planning matter that must be addressed at the time of divorce is your powers of attorney.

(1) If you have powers of attorney naming each other as agents, then 9 times out of 10 you do not want your ex-spouse to handle your affairs when you are incapacitated.

(2) If you do not have any powers of attorney, it is even more important to get them done.

You need to appoint someone to handle your financial affairs (paying bills, dealing with the bank, etc.) when you are unable to do these things yourself. You also want someone to be able to talk with doctors or review your medical information when you are unable to address medical situations yourself.

Don't let a divorce just happen to you. Take a collaborative approach that helps you address the financial, emotional and more importantly those estate planning issues that could get overlooked and lead to real complications. Contact us at for estate planning, probate and elder law needs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Collaborative Divorce - Can We Change our Irrevocable Trust

At the time of divorce, an additional estate planning matter to consider would be modifying or terminating any trusts that you may have in place. At this time, I am addressing the Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. Sometimes referred as the ILIT.

One would think that you can not change an Irrevocable Trust. However, there are opportunities to not only change the trust but also to terminate it. When I draft my ILITs for clients, I do provide for a divorce contingency so that by the terms of the trust changes are made as a result of a divorce. However, if your trust does not provide a divorce contingency, there are options available under the law. Under defined circumstances, the irrevocable trust can be terminated. At the time of divorce is the opportune time to address these legal issues. It will save time and expense.

Contact us at for your probate, estate plannind and elder law matters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collaborative Divorce and Estate Planning

There are so many issues that you must consider if or when you are going through a divorce. What about the children? Where will I live? How will the assets be allocated? In a collaborative divorce, couples seek divorce without going through litigation. Collaborative divorce is more comprehensive then the mediation alternative to litigation. It can serve to help you look at the financial and emotional aspects of divorce. In addition, from my perspective, it is an opportunity to consider the many estate planning issues. Over the next few days, I will discuss those issues and how they can best be addressed for your situation.

Who will be the guardain of my minor children? This is a difficult enough question when couples are together. It becomes even more problematic during a divorce. Either parent would have full custody of minor children when the other parent dies unless parental rights have been terminated or modified as part of the divorce settlement. It would be wise to revisit guardians that you may have appointed under your prior Wills and determine whether there is still agreement. During the collabrative process, you want to make sure you address matters relevant to the guardian of your minor children.

Contact our offices at for more information on probate, estate planning and elder law.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Have you moved to another state recently?

Peopele often ask me when should they update their estate planning documents. First, I do congratulate them for having done a Will and other estate planning. Just as important as making a Will, is to make sure to keep that Will up to date.

So, one trigger to remind you to update your documents is when you move to another state. Your Will is governed by the state where you live. Each state will recognize a Will made in another state,. However, it is important that it is reviewed by a lawyer when you move. You want to make sure there are no ambiguities that could be problematic upon death. There may be other important documents to consider in your new state. Should you have a Trust, Powers of Attorney or iving Will. What may not have been important in one state, like the need to have a Trust, may be very important in your new state.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tax Tip Mid-Year

It's summertime, the beach, vacations, sun and fun. So, have you thought about how to save on your taxes. I guess not!! But someone else has. Therefore, I thought I would share this recent article I read with you. It has some essential tips for you to consider for your 2011 taxes.

10 Midyear Tax Moves To Make Now
By Kay Bell •

Contact us at for all your probate and estate planning needs.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Divorce American Style

I received a newsletter from Marianna Goldenberg, a financial advisor who specializes in working with women experiencing a divorce. There are unique financial and estate planning matters that must be addressed during such a transition.

Here is a particular scenerio she presented with some slight modifications. Amy and Ted have been married for 12 years. They have no children and are each currently in the 25% federal tax bracket. They are trying to decide how to equally divide their remaining three assets. Those assets are a shore house in New Jersey worth $300,000, an IRA worth $200,000, and a savings account worth $250,000. The $250,000 in the savings account represents a loan taken against their shore house.

Ted has proposed that Amy take the shore house and sell it netting $50,000 after repayment of the outstanding loan. He suggests she should also keep the IRA worth $200,000. He would keep the savings account and they would both end up with $250,000.

Amy thinks this sounded fair since each would be getting half of the $500,000 total asset value. However the one question that she overlooked asking was “what is the cost basis?”

If this question had been asked of Ted it would have revealed that he only paid $110,000 for the shore house 8 years earlier. This asset has a capital gain of $190,000 which creates a capital gain of $28,500 (15% capital gain) plus $5,700 state tax due (3% state tax rate). Amy received $50,000 from the beach house but had to pay out $34,200 in taxes, so she only had $15,800 remaining.

Her after-tax value of the IRA is approximately $150,000 (25% tax bracket, not counting the 10% early withdrawal penalty since she is not planning to liquidate the account prior to age 59 ½).

The after-tax results show Amy ending up with only $165,800 while Ted keeps $250,000 tax-free and clear. This would hardly be considered an equal split.

To avoid potentially nasty surprises it is best to thoroughly investigate the basis in all assets prior to agreeing to accept transfer in order to have a clear picture of the financial outcome. Once the marital settlement has been signed and the divorce is final there is little to no opportunity to renegotiate an unfavorable deal.

AND do not forget those other documents that need to be updated after a divorce including your Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will. Contact us at

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Challenges Create Legacies

In our lives we face challenges. Whether those challenges are personal or business, financial or health, ongoing or one offs, they are forming our experiences and therefore our legacies. Now, we can choose not to view our challenges as building blocks of our personal destiny. When we do, we fail to take control of the challenges and therefore allow the challenges to take control of us. When we take control of the challenge, we are facing our reality and molding it to our best advantage.

You would not sit back and allow the failure of your car brakes while driving on the speedway to take you in any direction. Instead you would take control of the steering wheel and direct the vehicle to the safest stop you could maneuver, averting a life or death situation. So when presented with a situation that is a challenge, take the steering wheel of that challenge and maneuver it to your best advantage.

Nothing is happenstance and everything is for a reason. Those who have learned the most from their challenges have been creators of amazing destinies for us to learn from and grow. What is your legacy? How are you preserving that legacy for generational prosperity?

Contact us at . It is the legacy you have created that we seek to protect and preserve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wills, Wills, and more Wills - Do You Have One?

Your Will is your opportunity to say what you want to say, give what you want to give, honor those you want to honor as the beneficiary of your stuff (whatever your stuff might be). There have been many strange, wonderful, provocative, even crazy (of course crazy is in the eye of the beholder!!!) Will mandates.

Here are an interesting few!!!

Now consider your own situation and contact us today!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Third, as we continue from July 3rd the discussion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Act”), another area of focus under the Act is Medicare. The Act includes provisions that impact cost-sharing for Medicare Part D prescription medications, add to and change cost-sharing obligations for Medicare Part B preventive benefits, impact cost sharing for participation in Medicare Part B and D, change payment to Medicare Advantage plans and change enrollment periods for Medicare Parts C and D.

Specifically, the "donut hole" is to be eliminated by 2020. Elimination of this coverage gap is significant for seniors. Medicare is moving away from just be about sick care and to be more inclusive of well care including annual check-ups. Enrollment period changes and premium adjustments are additional changes which serve as enhancements to Medicare and therefore to the senior population.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

We all know that Freedom is a beautiful and precious thing. It should never be taken for granted. As we celebrate the 4th of July, reflect on all that Freedom means to you and the country in which you live.

Happy 4th !!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Elder Justice Act

Second, as discussed July 2nd, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Act”) has many aspects of importance to the elderly population. Anyone who has a practice focusing on or working with the elderly realizes the importance of advocacy on behalf of that population. There are many with designing schemes to exploit those most vulnerable in the community. In my practice, I have seen direct mail and call campaigns targeted at seniors with offerings that were in no way needed, beneficial, practical or affordable for an elderly person. I have seen solicitations that look like monthly bills which the elderly person pays. There have been nursing home facility closing leaving elderly individuals with little options. Besides exploitation, the 2 entities established by the Elder Justice Act also address abuse and neglect. Those newly established entities are the Elder Justice Coordinating Council and Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Forensic Centers.

The Elder Justice Act provides for the first time coordinates efforts to prevent elder abuse on a federal level. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council will make recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the coordination of activities of federal, state, local and private agencies and entities relating to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Forensic Centers develops forensic expertise regarding and provide services relating to, elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. In addition the Elder Justice Act will make available funds for adult protective services.

As we care for our aging parents and ourselves as we age, it is important to know about these services and continue to advocate on behalf of elderly. Contact us at for more information.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Affordable Care Act and the Elderly

Over the next few days, I will focus on an important part of our population, the elderly, and a law impacting health matters pertaining to them. In March, 2010, a comprehensive federal health care act was enacted, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Act”). Among its numerous provisions, some highly publicized, there are many provisions that are specific to the elderly but have not been given as much public scrutiny.

First, we have the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program which was created by the federal Act. . It will be funded through voluntary payroll deductions made by eligible full-time, part-time and self-employed workers regardless of health conditions. Payments will be made under the program to vested participants when they have a qualifying disability. It will take 5 years to vest in the program and there will be no limits on the number of years pay outs to an individual will be made. It would not prohibit access to other long term care coverage. This program may not be helpful to those with long term care needs now but it does address the serious situation of lack of long term care coverage for over 90% of the population.

The program is anticipated to begin in the latter part of 2012. Under the Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has to announce the details of the program by October 1, 2012. That announcement will also include details on the benefit and premiums, and when enrollment will start.

For more information contact us at

Friday, July 1, 2011

Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Here to Stay?

The Continuing Care Retirement Communities (“CCRC”) offer a blend of housing complex, activity center and health care system. They consist of independent living, assisted living, and nursing care as well as other programs and activities. Some offer specialized Alzheimer’s memory care units and programs.

However, in recent times, some CCRCs have begun to experience financial instability and therefore have attracted public concern and national attention. In Pennsylvania, at least 3 CCRCs have been impacted by bankruptcy filings. Even though there have been no complete closures to date, there have been significant changes impacting residents. Such changes include increases in service fees, elimination of some services, reduction of staff and changes in personnel management. These concerns generally result from change in ownership and persistent financial problems.

What is the answer to this growing concern? Residents have sought legal guidance, regulatory oversight and investigative reporting. It would appear that if CCRCs are to continue to be a viable option for the elderly all of these avenues most be adequately utilized. In addition, those on the front line of the issues, the residents, must continue to be vigilant in their own advocacy for self-representation. If governing boards of CCRCs do not have resident membership, then such should be sought after by the residents for better knowledge of and control over the financial viability of what has become their home.

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