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Pittsburgh Elder Law Blog

Do 18-year-old teenagers need to engage in estate planning?

Summer is ending, and many Pennsylvania residents are getting ready to send their 18-year-old teenagers off to college. This scary time signifies the end of the control that parents can legally exert over their children. Whereas, parents could previously make and enforce decisions on their minor children's behalf, now they no longer have a say legally. Under the law, 18-year-olds are legally adults and parents can no longer automatically act on their behalf. This means children now have to authorize their parents to act on their behalf and a couple of estate planning documents should be done before the fall college semester begins.

A quarter of a million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 end up in the hospital every year, so it makes sense that parents would like to be able to make immediate and necessary healthcare decisions, even if they are thousands of miles away. A healthcare power of attorney is one way that parents can continue to consult with healthcare providers. Parents do not automatically have access to their children's health records, so a HIPAA authorization can help parents avoid delays when time is of the essence. This authorization allows parents to communicate with insurers and healthcare providers to make informed medical decisions.

How appointing more than one surrogate benefits your estate plan

One of the most important decisions Pennsylvania residents have to make in their estate planning is choosing who the executor or trustee will be. They have many different options to choose from, but some feel the need to place this responsibility on just one person to carry out their asset distribution after their death.

A recent news article highlights many professional options that aid in your finances and could serve as candidates for trustees or executors. However, with every strength they have comes a weakness. Maybe the financial professionals you know have overly specific skillsets or are not familiar with you or your family. Maybe you feel as if their skills are still essential towards distributing your estate, but they could require some additional help.

What happens if someone dies without a will?

When Pennsylvania residents die without wills identifying their beneficiaries and the division of their assets, their property is going to pass through intestate succession to their heirs according to state law. What this means is that if people fail to make wills and pass away, state law will determine how their assets will be distributed. It is important to note that the way state law distributes the wealth may not be the way the decedent would want it distributed.

The order in which heirs inherit when there is no estate plan or will is known as intestate succession. This is basically a list of people who have the right to inherit and in what order. Close relatives take precedence over distant ones. Typically, a surviving spouse almost always gets half the decedent's estate. If there are no living children or grandchildren, the spouse might even get the whole estate. If all are living, children and spouses typically share the estate. Living grandchildren get a deceased parent's share proportionately, but otherwise may not be entitled to anything.

Does Pennsylvania have filial support laws?

Depending on one's state of residence, children may be financially liable for their parents' long-term care bills. Known as filial responsibility laws, these laws state that children can be held legally responsible for long-term care expenses if their parents are indigent and unable to pay for care. Though there are only 30 states in the country with laws like this on the books, Pennsylvania is one of them. A case a few years ago enforced the filial support laws and found the defendant son was liable for his mother's care to the tune of $93,000.

Until recently, these laws were largely ignored. But, the court decision in Pennsylvania demonstrates there is a movement to enforce them. Previously, adult children were only found liable if there was fraudulent activity, such as children transferring parents' assets to avoid paying for care. Now, though, the courts have started holding children accountable even without evidence of wrongdoing because long term care costs are on the rise. Healthcare providers are more incentivized to use the courts to compel children to help their parents financially.

Do you believe the myths about estate planning?

Estate planning - many people in Pennsylvania may be hesitant to begin the process because they either think that it is too complicated or that they don't need an estate plan. But, are the people who are thinking like this really believe the myths about estate planning?

A recent news article detailed some of the most common myths about estate planning. For starters, there is the myth that all a person needs is a will. While having a will in place is definitely the bedrock of any sound, comprehensive estate plan, there may be assets that are not directly tied to the directions in a will, such as joint bank accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies. These assets will almost always be distributed outside of the directions contained in a will. Joint bank accounts pass to the surviving joint owners while retirement accounts and life insurance policies pay based on beneficiary designation. 

Different estate planning concerns for millennials

Previous posts on this Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, blog noted that while each of us has a different family and financial situation, almost everyone can benefit from estate planning. Older and younger people benefit from plans detailing how their assets will be distributed when they pass and who will help them during their lifetimes. However, younger people may also need to name guardians and trustees for minor children. There are plenty of benefits for everyone when it comes to estate planning, but the approach to the process may be different, depending on a person's age.

Take, for instance, the generation known as millennials. These younger individuals will need to have all the traditional concerns covered in an estate plan, such as who their heirs will be and who will serve as agents in their powers of attorney, but there may be additional concerns as well. For example, many younger people have an extensive online presence with social media accounts. What happens to these accounts if the person dies? A plan needs to be in place to have these accounts shut down after, potentially, a final post, or even a memorial.

What do adult children need to know about parents' estate plans?

Once estate plans have been prepared by Pennsylvania residents, they usually feel pretty good about completing this important task. They have crafted plans for what will happen to their assets. They have powers of attorney in place, so that a trusted individual can make important medical and financial decisions if they are unable to do so. They have prepared living wills for end-of-life decisions. But, what good is estate planning if no one knows about it? What do parents need to inform their adult children of when it comes to their estate plans?

Many people wait until their senior years to craft estate plans. While previous posts here have pointed out that people of all ages could benefit from estate planning, many people still wait. By the time that many people do estate planning, their children are adults. It is likely that those adult children will be the primary beneficiaries, personal representatives and agents under the estate plans.

Handle assets correctly in estate plan to address long-term care

"Plan for the worst, hope for the best" is a common saying that many Pennsylvania residents likely know. In essence, the saying means that while we can always hope that the best outcome for any given situation will occur, it is prudent to plan in such a way that accounts for a different result. When it comes to estate planning, the saying can be particularly applicable.

Most people in Pennsylvania probably view estate planning as setting up an arrangement for the benefit of family members and close friends -- having a plan for assets after death can make their lives easier and provide crucial direction on the person's wishes. But, assets that will be part of an estate need to be handled in such a way that they can best benefit the planner during life as well, and no other situation needs more advance planning than long-term care.

Tips to avoid financial elder abuse

The “Baby Boom” generation is growing, as an estimated 4 million people retire and begin receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits annually. Amidst all of the change baby boomers go through while getting an estate plan organized, planning ahead for long-term care costs and discussing nursing home options, it may be easy for them to fall victim to a financial scam.

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