Estate Planning and Administration

Estate Planning

Many people are unsure when they should seek the advice of a lawyer when considering their estate.  If you are married or divorce, have children, or grand-children, own property or have an IRA or a 401K Plan or life insurance in place, you should make or update your estate plan.

A Will is a legal document signed by you that takes affect at your death and sets forth your wishes with respect to the distribution of your assets passing under your Will.  The Will can name a guardian for minor children and reduce estate and inheritance taxes that will be levied against your estate.  Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to a formula set forth in the intestate laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The intestate laws often do not reflect the average person’s wishes for the distribution of their estate and can result in your spouse having to share assets with other family members not of your choosing.  With limited exceptions, a Will ensures that your probate estate will pass according to your wishes, not a scheme set forth by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Having a Will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.  Here are the top ten reasons you should have a Will:

  • You decide how your estate will be distributed.
  • You decide who will take care of your minor children.
  • You will avoid a lengthy probate process.
  • You will minimize estate taxes.
  • You will decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate.
  • You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit by operation of law.
  • You can make donations and gifts.
  • You can avoid legal challenges to the Will.
  • Remember you can always change your mind if life circumstances change.
  • No one is immune from their inevitable demise.

In addition to a Will, your estate plan should include a Power of Attorney for assets, a Medical Power of Attorney together with a Living Will.  A Last Will and Testament only takes effect upon death.  If you are incapacitated you will require someone to make decisions for you.  Powers of Attorney are powerful legal instruments which insure your wishes are carried out, even if you are unable to communicate your wishes.  A Living Will empowers you to make your own decisions how and when medical procedures are done on your behalf.

Estate Administration

The loss of a loved one is a difficult emotional time with many frustrating funeral and burial arrangements to be made.  The administration of an estate contains numerous legal issues and procedures and documents that have to be filed within specific time frames of the law.  Hiring a competent legal advisor to assist the executor or administrator of the estate is an important decision.

The person responsible for administering the estate is more likely to need the advice of a competent attorney to navigate their way through the maze of requirements that must be met in order to properly probate the Will or administer the estate.  This process takes at least a year and the administrative burden is heavy and complex.  We can remove much of the burden placed on the executor or executrix of the estate and do so in a manner that assures the completion of the work within the state imposed timelines.

These services include:

  • Going to the courthouse with the named executor to make sure that the appropriate certificates are issued by the court granting the executor the power to administer the estate.
  • The marshaling discovery and review of estate assets with the executor’s authorization to determine the date of death and the consolation into the estate account.
  • Assisting the executor with the discovery and payment of estate expenses and obligations.
  • Communicating and negotiating with creditors of the deceased.
  • Advertising the estate as required by law.
  • Completion of all required Pennsylvania and Federal Inheritance Tax Returns and Fiduciary Tax Returns.
  • The completion of all court filings including the estate inventory, first and final account and status reports.
  • The sale, liquidation, transfer and distribution of assets to the beneficiaries including real estate.
  • Seeing that specific bequests to children, grandchildren, charities or pets are honored.
  • Some situations may require further representation such as family settlement agreements, trust creation and administration, small estate petitions or Will contest.

Call today for results

Contact Dimmich & Dinkelacker today for results-oriented legal representation with personal attention.