Philadelphia PA Estate Planning Attorneys

While nobody wants to think about death or disability, establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, it can also spare your loved ones of the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled.

Estate Planning For Each Of The Eight Stages In Life

As you age and as certain milestones pass, you need to reassess your current estate plan to determine whether your needs and goals are being met. At each stage in your life, questions that you should be asking yourself include:

  1. Have I acquired any new assets that require planning? This includes not only making sure to incorporate the new assets into your estate plan but also ensuring that the assets are titled properly so that they do not pass in a way you did not intend.
  2. Do the beneficiary designations on my retirement plans, life insurance, and other accounts accurately reflect who and how I would like those assets to be transferred in the event of my death?
  3. Has my domestic situation changed? This generally encompasses all changes related to whom you are living with, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child or death of a family member.
  4. Does my current estate plan reflect my goals?

The answers to each of these questions will guide you and your attorney as you create or update your estate plan. Read More.

Providing for Incapacity

If you become incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that one’s spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them if they become incapacitated. The truth is that in order for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition a court to declare you legally incompetent. This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, the individual may have to come back to the court every year and show how he or she is spending and investing each and every penny.

If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you, it’s essential that you work with an attorney to create the proper legal documents to designate a person, or persons, that you trust so they will have the authority to withdraw money from your accounts, pay bills, take distributions from your IRAs, sell stocks, and refinance your home. Many people mistakenly think that a simple will can effectively protect you in the event that you become incapacitated, but the truth is that a will does not take effect until you die.

In addition to planning for the financial aspect of your affairs during incapacity, it’s critical that you establish a plan for your medical care. The law allows you to appoint someone you trust – for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can do this by using a durable power of attorney for health care where you designate the person to make such decisions on your behalf. In addition to a power of attorney for health care, you should also have a living will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

Planning for Death Taxes

The IRS will want to review your estate at death to ensure you don’t owe them that one final tax: the federal estate tax. Whether there will be any tax owed depends on the size of your estate and how your estate plan is structured. Many states have their own separate estate and inheritance taxes that you need to be aware of. There are many effective strategies that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate death taxes, but you must start the planning process early in order to properly implement many of these strategies.

Contact our Philadelphia Estate Planning law firm with your questions, comments or concerns.