Pennsylvania Estate Planning, Trust, and Executor and Probate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Initially, many of our clients come to us with the same questions about: estate planning, being an executor, and about protecting their assets, estate, or inheritance in Pennsylvania. This estate law frequently asked questions page is meant to answer the most common questions we hear from clients each day and to help others build a foundation of knowledge about Pennsylvania estate planning, being an executor  in Pennsyvlania, elder law, trust law, and asset protection.

Do you have a question for us about Pennsylvania estate law that you do not see answered below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced lawyer about your legal needs or email your question to David Frees [email protected]
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  • Question Seven: What is the best way to find qualified advisers for my elderly parents’ estate planning?

    Answer: The best way to find advisers such as an estate planning attorney and a financial planner is to ask friends and family that you trust AND who are financially similarly situated. Remember, your parents will need advisers in the state where they reside. If friends or family are unable to recommend an attorney and a financial planner, another source for leads and information is the internet. You should look at websites created by firms that practice in these areas of law. Look for videos, reports, testimonials or other inclinations of client satisfaction and experience. Third party ratings by avvo.com are also useful.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

     

  • Question Seven (A): How do I find the right lawyer to help me with general and elder law issues?

    Answer:  Again, the best way to find a lawyer who concentrates in elder law is by asking close friends, family, or relatives in the same state where your parents reside.

    If friends or family are unable to recommend an attorney the internet is a good source of information and ratings. You should look at websites created by firms that practice in these areas of law.  

    Look for videos, reports, testimonials or other inclinations of client satisfaction and experience. Third party ratings by avvo.com are also useful.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Six: What type of advisers should I look to for advice regarding my elderly parents estate planning?

    Answer: There are two or three different types of advisers you can look to for advice when trying to help assess, revise, or update your elderly parents’ estate and trust planning. 

    The first type of adviser you can seek is an estate planning attorney with elder or senior law experience.  The estate planning attorney will be able to suggest documents which they feel would best protect your elderly parents in their current financial situation and/or to achieve their own estate planning goals.  An estate planning attorney should be well-versed in the state laws.

    The second type of consultant that you can seek advice from is a financial planner. In some situations, it may be a good idea to have both an estate planning attorney and financial planner working together as a team.

    A financial planner and estate planning attorney will be able to work together to create a plan that is best suited for your parents’ current affairs and to achieve their short term and long term goals (such as asset protection for the family). The financial planner will be able to assess your parents’ current financial status and then suggest long-term plan that would allow them to have money for the remainder of their life. The financial planner should be certified in the state in which your parents currently reside. 

    For clients who have exclusive life or long term disability needs it might be beneficial to involve an insurance adviser in this process.

    Finally, involving your parents' CPA or tax adviser can be important.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Five: Do I really need help with my parents’ elder law and/ or estate planning or can I do it on my own?

    Answer:  Yes, it is possible to do it through Legal Zoom or other on-line services to achieve a "do it yourself result".  But, this area of the law is complicated and you and your elderly parents might need and benefit from the help of an attorney to make sure their elder law estate planning documents are set up properly. Also, because of the complexity of elder law issues, tax laws, and Medicaid’s look back rule which limits gifting it is important to consider the help of an attorney. As you conduct your own research you may realize that estate and elder law planning has a language of its own.  Therefore, you may not fully understand the meaning or importance of each clause in a document. 

    If you do not have your parents’ estate planning documents drafted or executed correctly the court can determine that the documents are not valid. Furthermore, the IRS or the state can also determine that documents such as trusts are not designated to achieve tax nursing home protection goals leaving you or your parents to pay a large sum of money in taxes or to a care facility.  If your parents’ documents are not valid, the court will be able to distribute their assets according to law and not according to their wishes. 

    When trying to find an estate planning attorney, he/she should be licensed to practice within the state in which your elderly parents currently reside and should have elder or senior law experience. Each state has its own estate planning laws. Therefore, it may be highly beneficial for you to work with an attorney who lives and practices in the same state as your elderly parents. Furthermore, you want to find an attorney or law firm which focuses its practiction in these areas.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Three: What are the most important legal documents that your elderly parents should have in place?

    Answer: The five most important legal documents that your parents should have or consider in place are 1) wills, 2) general durable powers of attorney, 3) medical powers of attorney, 4) and living wills. In some cases they might also need or benefit from a 5) revocable or irrevocable trust (including a nursing home asset protection trust).

    A will states how your parents wish that their assets including real property should be distributed upon their death. A will can also include specific gifts that your parents wanted to give to loved ones once they have passed away such as gifts of money, or personal property.

    Your parents should also do a careful review of beneficiary designations under 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, and life insurance policies to make sure that they do not conflict with the will or other estate planning documents. 

     A general durable power of attorney appoints one or more agents to take care of your parents’ finances once they are no longer capable of doing so.

    A medical power of attorney also appoints one or more agents to make medical decisions on behalf of your parents when they are no longer able to do so. These decisions are typically guided by a living will (see below).

    A living will states your elderly parents’ wishes regarding what type of medical treatment they would want to receive in the event that they become permanently unconscious with no reasonable expectation of the recovery or they are terminal and can no longer make these decisions. 

    Revocable and irrevocable trusts can be used to: 1. Avoid probate, and 2. Shelter or protect assets from a nursing home (this is a very special irrevocable trust).

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

     

  • Question Two: What are the most important issues that you want to “focus on” with your elderly parents?

    Answer: There are three key issues that you want to focus on when discussing elder or senior law issues with elderly parents.  The three areas are 1) financial decision making, 2) medical decision making, and 3) estate planning.

    Financial Decision Making. In this disucssion you should get your parents to consider who would be given the authority to take care of their finances if they were no longer capable of doing so. This would typically include bill paying and investment decisions.

    Medical Decisions Making. Be sure to have your parents consider giving this power to one another and to one or more substitutes so that decisions can be made when they are no longer able to.

     Estate Planning.Your elderly parents should have up to date estate planning documents (including will and in some cases trusts) which clearly state their wishes as to what should happen with their assets upon death.  These should also be coordinated with the beneficiary designations on life insurance, IRA's, and other assets.

    Lastly, proper estate planning documents can minimize taxes and the probate process, which ultimately will save significant amounts of time, money, and frustration.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question One: How do you get elderly parents to start talking about their financial and legal affairs

    Answer: This conversation can be either very easy or very difficult depending on your family dynamic. For children from families that have been very open and honest regarding the family’s financial and legal situation it is easy. For others, starting the conversation may be difficult if your parents never openly discussed their financial and legal matters.  But, failing to have this discussion is a recipe for disaster.

     If your family has not openly discussed these issues, one way to try and start the conversation is to start talking about your own concerns planning and and issues. If you have recently updated your own estate or financial planning, you can start off by generally talking about wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and even trusts that you have considered and the advantages of each.

    You can express concerns you have regarding emergencies both medical and financial that may happen as your parents grow older. By starting the conversation out generally it encourages your parents to open up and share with you their wishes or plans for the future. You can also emphasize that by doing your own estate planning you realized that you may not really know or understand their personal concerns and wishes.

    In some situations, parents really do not want their children to have any idea of their financial and legal status, and will not discuss the topic at all. If you find yourself in this situation with your parents, it may be best to hire a counselor or lawyer to try and get the conversation started. Your parents may be more inclined to talk about these issues in the presence of an uninvolved third party.

    However, if the attorney truly represents your parents then there might be significant limitations on information that may be discussed with you. Be sure to discuss these ethical issues with the attorney in advance.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III  at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • How do you get elderly parents to start talking about their financial and legal affairs?

    Answer: This conversation can be either very easy very or difficult depending on your family dynamic. Children from families that have been very open and honest regarding the family’s financial and legal situation it is easy. For others, starting the conversation will be difficult if your parents never openly discussed their financial and legal matters. 

    If your family has not openly discussed these issues, one way to try and start the conversation is to start talking about your own
    concerns and issues. If you have recently updated your own estate or financial planning, you can start off by generally talking about wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and even trusts that you have considered and the advantages of each. You can express concerns you have regarding emergencies both medically and financially that may happen as your parents grow older. By starting the conversation out generally it encourages your parents to open up and share with you their wishes or plans for the future. You can also emphasize that by doing your own estate planning you realized that you may not really know or understand their concerns and wishes.

    In some situations, parents really do not want their children to have any idea of their financial and legal status, and will not discuss the topic at all. If you find yourself in this situation with your parents, it may be best to hire a counselor or lawyer to try and get the 
    conversation started. Your parents may be more inclined to talk about these issues in the presence of an uninvolved third party.

    However, if the attorney truly represents your parents then there might be significant limitations on information that may pertain to you.  

    Be sure to discuss these ethical issues with the attorney in advance.

  • Am I Responsible For My Parents Nursing Home Bills and Costs?

    Generally speaking, children are not responsible for their parent's nursing
    home bills once the
    parent's funds have been exhausteed. 

    However, Pennsylvania became one of the first states to enforce a law
    on it's books
     imposing that liability.

    This is a disturbing course of events for families paying for college
    educations and
     other expenses.

    For a fuller discussion of this case see out article on Paying For Your Parents'
    Nursing Home Care. 

    This case is not final and the law in this area is devlopig so make sure to get
    a free or paid consultation on elder law planning to get the best advice in
    your particular situation 

    David Frees Can be reached at 610-933-8069 and mention the OFEER CODE ELDER LAW
    CONSULT to get a complimentary consult and elder law planning reports. 

  • Can family members be paid for providing care to an elderly parent or relative without disqualifying them from long term care under medicaid?

    Yes.  When properly structured family members can be paid for providing such care without it appearing to be a gift which would disqualify the elderly person from mediciad.  However, it must not be excessive, it should  be properly documented under a care agreement that meets the requirements of Pennsylvania law and it is taxable as income for the receipient fo the payments.

    For elder care issues call:  Aks for David Frees 610-933-8069
    He will make sure that you are helped by one of his partners or associates
    with extensive elder law and nursing home experience.

  • I have a revocable living trust. Does that protect my ssets from a nursing home spend down?

    No.  That is a very common misconception.  There are many reasons to have a living (revocable trusts) trust.  However, asset protection planning and nursinghome protection are not reasons to have a revocable trust.  Under federal mediciad law and under most states laws, your revocable trust is considered your asset and must be spent before you qualify for long term care in a nursing home.  Liewise, becuase your trust is your asset it can also be reached by your creditors if you get sued.

    The solution?  Get a free elder law consultation from a lawyer that practices regularly in this area and develop the strategies that are customized to you.  These techniques include but are not limited to irrevocable trusts, care agreements, and more.

    David M. Frees III
    610-933-8069

    David's firm ( Unruh, Turner, Burke and Frees ) has lawyers practicing in the many areas related to elder law and David and his attorneys have been representing elderly clients at all levels of influence and assets for over 24 years.  Call David to get exactly the right representation for your situation.  Our policy is to find you the best representation for your particular facts and to refer you to another lawyer or firm if we cannot offer you representation matched to your needs.
    [email protected]