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.

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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