Sure you can. But whether it is valid is a different story. Asking us if you can write your own will is like asking us if you can dunk a basketball. Dunking a basketball often requires certain skills, natural abilities and, quite frankly, a lot of practice. Similarly, drafting a will requires special training and knowledge of Pennsylvania law and how those rules and regulations will affect your particular circumstances and wishes.
Estate planning gives you an opportunity to help your loved ones. If your homemade will is not legally effective, your assets will pass according to Pennsylvania intestacy laws. If your will is ambiguous or unclear, there is a much greater chance that there will be disputes among your heirs as to the meaning of the will.
If you die without a will, your assets will be disposed of according to state law. Such distributions may be contrary to your intent. Moreover, allowing the law to determine the distribution of one’s assets is generally an uneconomical method of distributing an estate and very often results in an inequitable distribution of assts.
An estate plan drafted by one of our attorneys covers everything you own or have an interest in, as well as consideration of assets you may receive in the future through inheritance or increased income. We consider, among other things, your residence, your car, your IRA’s, your retirement plans, business interests, vacation homes and your household items when reviewing what type of estate plan is right for you.
Probate is the legal term for the process of filing a will with a county’s Register of Wills. Once a will is filed, the Register of Wills appoints an individual (the “executor,” “executrix,” or “personal representative”) to administer the estate. The process of administering an estate involves making sure that all property of the decedent is properly disposed of pursuant to the terms of the will. Debtors are notified of the death and debts of the decedent are paid to the extent that the decedent left money to pay them. Finally, all taxes are paid, and the estate is closed.
Probate is not necessary in all instances. Our legal team can guide you through the process and determine whether probate is the proper way to handle your loved one’s estate.
If an individual dies without a will, an estate can still be raised with the Register of Wills. This is the process called “administration” of a decedent’s estate. Our legal team can assist you even if your loved one died without a will.
There are several ways one can reduce estate taxes. We are happy to discuss these methods in detail with you. Lifetime gifts can be an effective way to reduce estate taxes. Also an irrevocable trust, which removes property from one’s estate, can be an effective way to reduce estate taxes. Also, taking affirmative steps to exclude life insurance proceeds from one’s estate may avoid estate tax on those benefits.
Simply put, a will is a document that tells the world how you wish to have your property divided upon your passing. You appoint an “executor/executrix” who is tasked with making sure that the provisions of your will are carried out properly. You also appoint a guardian for minor children, set up trusts for future generations, and make gifts to charity.
A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone else to make personal and legal decisions for you if cannot make them yourself due to illness or other incapacity. You are called the “principal” and the person you appoint is called your “agent”. You do not lose the ability to make your own decisions if you sign a power of attorney, and your agent is not required to act on your behalf. However, if your agent does take an action for you, he or she is required to act in your best interests and account for his or her actions.
A trust is a legal entity that you or someone else creates to hold property pursuant to the terms of the trust. The person who creates the trust is called the “settlor”. The property held by the trust is called the “corpus.” The person who benefits from the trust is called the “beneficiary”. The person who manages the trust is called the “trustee”. A trust can either be revocable or irrevocable. A trust can be a very helpful tool to manage your property before and after you pass away. It can help preserve your legacy for your family over generations.
A living will tells your doctors your wishes if you become in a state of permanent unconsciousness or have a terminal illness. You have the ability to appoint an individual to help the doctors make decisions called a “surrogate.”
A special needs trust is a document that is designed to allow a disabled beneficiary to benefit from a fund of money while still being eligible for public benefits such as Social Security Disability, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Knowing which public benefits you can receive, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Administration benefits, and how you can become eligible for them is a very important part of the planning process. Making a mistake in your estate plan could cost you your eligibility for some benefits.
A guardian is a person who is appointed by the local court to make all decisions for an incapacitated person. Unlike a power of attorney, a guardian is required to act on behalf of an incapacitated person who loses his or her ability to make decisions.
We help your executor and family identify and redeem life insurance that you bought during your lifetime.
We help your executor by giving the world notice of your passing as required by law.
We help your executor identify your creditors and pay any debts that you may owe upon your passing.
We help your executor by identifying and calculating any estate or inheritance taxes due when you pass. We can help your executor prepare the necessary tax returns and see that they are properly filed.
We help your executor transfer property to family members and charities pursuant to the terms of your will.
We provide finality to your executor and family by taking all of the steps necessary to obtain approval from beneficiaries, the Court, and the taxing authorities to close your estate.