Learn How to Talk About Your Wills, Trusts, and More
Nothing beats understanding your situation, so here at Jeffrey W. Burzawa Attorney at Law, I believe you should have a basic knowledge of your estate.
When we discuss your future, certain documents are going to come up. We'll have a better conversation and can do better planning if we're on the same page.
Documents Involved in Establishing Your Estate
WILL - A will determines the disposition of assets held in your name at death. You designate an Executor to carry out your intentions. A Guardian would be designated for minor children. A Trustee would also be named if assets went to a minor. A will is only effective upon death and may be changed at any time prior to death.
POWER OF ATTORNEY - This document allows you to designate an agent who will act on your behalf in financial matters in the event of your inability to do so yourself. This power only exists during your lifetime and is terminated at death.
LIVING WILL - This document is also referred to as an Advanced Health Care Directive. It allows you to specify the limits of health care if you are incapacitated. A Health Care Agent may be appointed to provide directives on all health care issues.
LIVING TRUST - This document is a separate legal entity that is created during one's lifetime. The document is drafted, and assets are transferred from your name into the name of the Trust, which is then administered by a Trustee who may be the same person who transferred the assets. There are both revocable and irrevocable trusts. A benefit of a Living Trust is the avoidance of probate.
PROBATE - This is the actual filing of the Will with the County on one's death. Assets owned in an individual's name are subject to the probate process. Insurance, retirement benefits, joint-owned and Trust-held assets are not subject to Probate.
INHERITANCE TAX - This tax is imposed on the value of assets at death. The Rate on transfers to children is 4.5% in Pennsylvania. The maximum rate in Pennsylvania to others is 15%. Federal Estate Tax is a tax owed to the IRS but only with very large estates. In the State of Pennsylvania, a revocable trust will not reduce or eliminate the inheritance tax.
Be Sure You Get Local Legal Representation
When I consider your estate, I follow some general pieces of advice.
A Will is a must if you have a minor child or children. You should be the only one who determines a guardian.
If you own assets in your own name or if you will in the future, a Will is necessary.
Everyone should designate an agent to be power of attorney.
A Living Will is a matter of personal or religious belief.
A Living Trust may be appropriate in certain circumstances but be careful of national companies that offer blanket promises. You should consult with a lawyer in your County due to the specific rules in Pennsylvania and the County. Such documents should only be drafted by an attorney who has knowledge in the area.
National software or internet sites should not be relied upon to obtain documents. The experience of a lawyer in the County you live in is critical to proper Estate documents. The so-called will kits have resulted in a backlog of Estate litigation.
If you have any concerns about your estate, refer to the County Bar Association to find a good attorney.
I would be pleased to represent you. I have over 35 years of local experience and am driven to provide the best results possible. Call me today at 724-837-0357 and we'll make an appointment to talk about your estate.