Delaware County Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning is a legal process managed by an experienced Pennsylvania estate planning attorney who accounts for all accumulated assets included in an individual’s estate, classifies these assets and arranges them for distribution according to the wishes of the owner of the estate.
What is an Estate?
An individual’s estate consists of all their assets, personal belongings, financial resources and business holdings legally owned by that person. Other entities considered to be part of an estate include investments, corporation interests, funds from structured settlements or lawsuits, funds held in joint ventures, trusts or partnerships, real property and chattel.
Why Estate Planning?
Estate planning is necessary to ensure assets are distributed to beneficiaries named in will and trusts. In addition, estate planning significantly reduces potential fees and taxes associated with probate court and the expense of establishing a contingency plan to properly execute intended or assumed objectives of the individual owning estate. More importantly, a professionally created estate plan is applicable to assigning guardianship of minors or disabled individuals following the demise of the estate owner.
Estate planning can also include but is not limited to:
- Specific instructions for the care of the estate owner if he or she were to become incapacitated
- Provisions for loved ones who have special needs so that government benefits are not disrupted
- Provisions for those who the estate owner considers irresponsible with property or money
- Provisions for loved ones who will require protection from creditors in the future
- Life insurance policies meant for providing funds to the estate owner’s family at the time of death or in the event a disability prevents the estate owner from working and earning a living wage
- Provisions for the transfer of a business at the owner’s time of retirement, death or disability
Although estate planning is usually thought of a a one-time legal transaction, it should be considered an ongoing process that is reviewed regularly by the estate owner and updated, if necessary, by a Delaware County estate planning lawyer.
Entities Involved in Estate Planning
Grantor/Benefactor/Trustor–the individual ordering legal documents needed to initiate estate and trust planning
Trustee--the individual holding legal titles to estate, property or trust who also controls assets held within. Grantors can act as trustees as well
Testator--any individual “of sound mind” who is the creator of a testate (a last will and testament).
Administrator–a person assigned by probate courts to handle the estate of a deceased person who did not leave a will (intestate)
Executor–the person designated (according to a will’s instructions) to ensure things are carried out as described in a will or trust
Beneficiary/Grantee/Heir--the legal entity (human, animal or organizational) receiving assets from a grantor
Living trust attorney–“inter vivos” trust attorneys draw up trusts for those who are still alive instead of developing a trust at the time of death. In addition, a living trust attorney can advise you about the benefits of different types of living trusts that help you avoid costs associated with probate court, capital gains taxes and estate tax as well as establish long-term management of properties
The Bottom Line
Proper estate planning ensures that loved ones and beneficiaries receive the greatest portion of an estate that has been left to them. If they neglect to take time to pursue estate planning, PA residents will give the state legal authority to decide who is entitled to their assets when they die, and how much they are entitled to receive. When no will or trust exists, the state of Pennsylvania sends an estate through the probate process which can take years to complete and costs the family of the deceased thousands of dollars in fees.
Contact a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney today to ensure your assets are not left in the hands of state-appointed attorneys who care little about the wishes of the deceased or the best interest of the decedent’s family.