When people in Pennsylvania begin to consider making or updating a will, they may focus initially on how they want their assets distributed after they die. Certainly, this is an important thing to address with a will. However, it is equally important to give clear thought to who shall be named as the executor of a will. The decision to identify someone to essentially manage an estate is not a popularity contest and should be taken seriously.
A major component of estate planning in Pittsburgh is ensuring that one's liabilities have a minimal impact on the anticipated amount of assets they will have to pass on to beneficiaries. One can typically plan to resolve a majority of their debts before their estate's are dispersed; they may believe that there is nothing that they can do to avoid paying estate taxes. Yet a closer review of federal tax law reveals that estate taxes need not be a major concern.
Many in Pittsburgh have likely heard of how costly a process probating an estate can be. That can be true, depending on the amount of time that is required to complete it. Court costs and attorneys fees can add up over time, and those expenses are typically paid from the estate's assets. Yet there are steps that one can take to ensure that their estates are not delayed when going through probate (one might even be able to plan to avoid the process altogether). It is for this reason why so many estate planning experts encourage people to take up the process early on in their lives.
A common question posed to us here at Sikov and Love, P.A. is what happens when a Pittsburgh resident dies without a will. When a loved one dies whose estate you may have an interest in, your first thought might be that without a will in place, it is left to you and other heirs to decide how their assets are to be dispersed. Unfortunately, that is not the case. One who dies without a will is viewed as being "intestate," and Pennsylvania has established laws detailing exactly how intestate estates are to be handled.
Probate - what is it? Much has been said on the Pittsburgh Elder Law Blog about the importance of creating a valid Will. Probate is the process through which the decedent's Last Will and Testament is filed of record with the Register of Wills office and authenticated. If the Will has been witnessed, usually by two (2) people, the witnesses may have to come in to authenticate the decedent's signature or to sign Affidavits and have them notarized. However, if the Will has been notarized, it is "self-proving," which means that the witnesses do not have to appear or execute Affidavits. Letters Testamentary are then issued by the Register of Wills to the Executor or Executrix named in the Last Will and Testament.
In probate and estate administration, being the executor is a serious responsibility for Pittsburgh residents. An executor is the personal representative of the estate. It is the executor's responsibility to protect the decedent's assets, including the home, until probate is complete, and the assets are disbursed to the beneficiaries. Generally, an executor has just earned this title after the death of a loved one, which can be an emotionally difficult time. The added responsibility may be overwhelming without any knowledge of how to proceed, which is why it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced estate attorney.
The death of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, left a void in the music industry, with Pittsburgh residents, along with the rest of the country, playing her songs and watching her funeral with tears in their eyes. While her life and business dealings served as an example during her lifetime, her dying without a will and leaving behind a complicated situation can also serve as a lesson.
Pennsylvania residents have been encouraged many times on this blog to engage in estate planning, including the creation of a valid and legal Will. When drafting a Will, many people let their loved ones know what to expect, which can help to prevent family disputes in the future. When the relative of a deceased person thinks the Will was not valid or legal, then he or she can contest
Probate is an unfamiliar process for most Pennsylvania residents. While many may understand some of the basics of other areas of the law, such as criminal law or family law, probate and estate law can be daunting to even the most sophisticated of individuals. An overview of the basics of the probate process can be beneficial for many people.
Once Pennsylvania residents make the choice - the right choice - to begin crafting a comprehensive estate plan, it is important for them to realize that not just any documents will do. They need to make sure that they have the right documents for their own unique financial and family situations. And, they need to be sure that they avoid some common estate planning mistakes. So, what are the big estate planning mistakes to avoid? Well, as a recent article noted, the big mistakes can be broken down into four particular concerns.