Creating an estate plan, which at a minimum includes a will, durable/financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney and living will, is a crucial component of governing and managing one’s estate.
The object of a will is to tell the courts who you want to administer your estate (the "executor") after your death and to define who is to receive the assets of your (the “Testator”) estate. Your estate includes assets ranging from those with significant financial value, such as a summer vacation home, to those with substantial sentimental value, such as photographs or family heirlooms.
Your will indicates who will receive which assets; these individuals designated to receive property are beneficiaries. A will also serve to declare a guardian for any minors or dependents who survive you.
Trusts serve different functions and be organized differently depending on your situation. There are also many specific living trusts for specific purposes. There are living trusts that are also called inter vivos trusts since they are created and are active during the trust creator's lifetime. In addition, there are testamentary trusts that are created under your will and are only "activated" or funded when you die.
When someone passes away without a will, then the estate is subject to what's called intestate, or the process of using state laws to determine who inherits what from your estate.
An administrator is appointed by the courts and is subject to probate laws; the administrator may make certain decisions that your heirs don't agree with or that you might not have agreed with, so it's important to establish your legally executed estate plan documents.
Although you don't need an attorney to prepare your will by law, using a form off the internet, or through some other means of cut-rate preparation, can often result in a messy probate period.
Poorly drafted will often cause more problems than they solve, particularly if the gross value of your estate exceeds $500,000. It’s highly advisable that you retain the services of a Pennsylvania estate planning and probate attorney who can counsel you about the creation of a lawful and legally binding will that will minimize tax exposure and mitigate confusion about your intentions.
Our Trust and Estates team is prepared to answer your questions about your estate plan, whether you need it reviewed, modified, or drafted for the very first time.
Call our offices at 610-933-8069 to see what an attorney from the law offices of Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees can do for you.