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Three Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney in Pennsylvania

estate planning Pennsylvania

An estate planning attorney helps you understand the state and federal laws pertaining to how your assets will be inventoried, dispersed and taxed upon death. In this context, though, an “estate” can be any and all of the items that the deceased individual, or decedent, owns at the time of his or her death. An estate planning attorney advises you on legal considerations and helps implement your plan so in the event of your demise you can be sure your assets are handled the way you intended. Be it with a Will or a Trust, a skilled lawyer is a must to make things go well. Here are three reasons why an estate planning attorney will save you a lot of sleepless nights:

  1. Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

One of the chief concerns an individual will have for any surviving beneficiaries, especially if it is subject to taxes. An estate planning attorney can advise you on planning techniques to reduce your estate taxes, which are based on an asset threshold. In addition, there is inheritance tax if a beneficiary is not a spouse. Finally, a skilled estate planning attorney can advise you on the income tax implications your death might have on your estate or your loved ones.

  1. Probate v. Non-Probate

A skilled estate planning attorney will advise you on the consequences of how you title your assets. Some assets require probate and others do not. They can help you decide if you want to hold assets jointly with a loved one, use beneficiaries, anticipate probating an estate, or even draft a trust to avoid probate altogether. A Pennsylvania Estate Planning attorney can also assist you in creating a trust, to avoid probate, or a Will, if probate makes sense for you. Assets that are eligible for probate would be anything titled in the decedent’s name, also including property that the decedent owns jointly with another individual (known as “tenants in common”). These items could range anywhere from a vehicle, home, boat, etc. An estate planning attorney can explain all of this clearly to help you decide how to best handle your financial affairs.

  1. Personal Representative

An estate planning attorney also can draft a Will that names someone to be in charge of your estate and help plan for contingencies in the event of your inability to update your will, or their inability to be in charge. Absent planning ahead, if you have no Will, or the parties named cannot serve, you are stuck with the default rules on intestacy to determine your Personal Representative, which defaults to your next of kin and promote gridlock.

In the scope of challenges every individual must face in life, death is unavoidable. With that being said, by hiring an estate planning attorney, one can rest easy at night with peace of mind in knowing their assets are protected by an expertly done and well-conceived estate plan. As the saying goes: a good conscience is a soft pillow. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in making sure your estate plan is done in accordance with Pennsylvania law with minimal headaches. If you need help with your estate plan, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.

Intestacy in Pennsylvania – How Does It Work?

intestacy Pennsylvania

When someone dies, and an estate is required, there are two distinct possibilities for what dictates the disposition of assets in the estate. If the decedent has a valid will, that will controls how the estate is handled. However, if someone dies without a will, there are a default set of rules that control how an estate is handled. This process is called Intestacy.

Without a will, assets go to what the State of Pennsylvania assumes are the people you would be likely to leave your estate to. It is very unlikely that the decedent’s assets will pass to the State of Pennsylvania.

If the decedent dies with a spouse, the following divisions of assets occur in intestacy:

  • No Children or Parents Survive. All assets pass to the surviving spouse.
  • Children Survive.The surviving spouse receives the first $30,000, plus one-half (1/2) of the balance, with the rest being evenly divided amongst the children. If some of the surviving children are not the spouse’s issue, then the surviving spouse only receives one-half (1/2) of the estate.
  • One or Both Parents Survive.The surviving spouse receives the first $30,000, plus one-half (1/2) of the balance, with the rest being evenly amongst the surviving parents.

If the decedent dies without a spouse, then the decedent’s estate assets pass as follows:

(1)  Issue. Children, grandchildren, etc.

(2)  Parents. If no issue survives the decedent, then to the parents or parent of the decedent.

(3)  Brothers, sisters, or their issue. If no parent survives the decedent, then to the issue of each of the decedent’s parents.

(4)  Grandparents. If no issue of either of the decedent’s parents but at least one grandparent survives the decedent, then half to the paternal grandparents and half to the maternal grandparents, and their children.

(5)  Uncles, aunts and their children, and grandchildren. If no grandparent survives the decedent, then to the uncles and aunts and the children and grandchildren.

(6)  Commonwealth. In default of all persons hereinbefore described, then to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In an intestate estate, it is important to make certain that a Personal Representative is properly appointed to handle the probate process. Furthermore, all assets have to be properly researched, valued, and accounted for. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in making sure an intestate estate is done in accordance with Pennsylvania law with minimal headaches.

Furthermore, intestate succession is never certain until a party dies. If the uncertainty of intestacy is not appealing, then you should make every effort to have a will prepared that does reflect your testamentary wishes.

If you need help administering and intestate estate or you wish to draft a will to avoid intestacy, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.

Intestacy in Maryland – How Does It Work?

intestacy Maryland

When someone dies, and an estate is required, there are two distinct possibilities for what dictates the disposition of assets in the estate. If the decedent has a valid will, that will controls how the estate is handled. However, if someone dies without a will, there are a default set of rules that control how an estate is handled. This process is called Intestacy.

In some situations, minor children and spouses are entitled to a portion of an intestate estate before the rest is divided. These are respectively called the spousal share and children’s share.

Without a will, assets go to what the State of Maryland assumes are the people you would be likely to leave your estate to. It is very unlikely that the decedent’s assets will pass to the State of Maryland. The Maryland Register of Wills details that order as follows, based on the relatives living at the time of the decedent’s death:

  1. Spouse and minor children of the decedent- spouse receives one-half, children share remaining one-half
  2. Spouse and children (all adult) of the decedent-spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-children divide balance (the interest of a predeceased child passes to issue of that child)
  3. Children only of the decedent-children (does not include step-children) divide entire estate (the interest of a predeceased child passes to issue of that child)
  4. Spouse and parents of the decedent- spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-both parents divide balance or surviving parent takes balance
  5. Spouse of the decedent without other heirs listed above-spouse receives entire estate
  6. Parents of the decedent without other heirs listed above-both parents divide entire estate or surviving parent takes all
  7. Brothers/sisters of the decedent without heirs listed above-brothers and sisters divide estate equally (share of deceased sibling goes to their issue-nieces and nephews of the decedent)
  8. Grandparents without other heirs listed above-grandparents divide entire estate or, if deceased, to their issue (see applicable law for details)
  9. Great-grandparent without other heirs listed above-great-grandparents divide entire estate or, if deceased, to their issue (see applicable law for details)
  10. Step-children-if there are no heirs listed above
  11. No living heirs or step-children-If decedent was a recipient of long-term care benefits under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program at time of death, net estate is paid to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Otherwise, the net estate is paid to the Board of Education.

In an intestate estate, it is important to make certain that a Personal Representative is properly appointed to handle the probate process. Furthermore, all assets have to be properly researched, valued, and accounted for. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in making sure an intestate estate is done in accordance with Maryland law with minimal headaches.

Furthermore, intestate succession is never certain until a party dies. If the uncertainty of intestacy is not appealing, then you should make every effort to have a will prepared that does reflect your testamentary wishes.

If you need help administering and intestate estate or you wish to draft a will to avoid intestacy, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.

The Pennsylvania Register of Wills, Orphan’s Court, and You

penn orphans court

When someone dies with property lacking a joint title holder or beneficiary that property is considered probate property. Probate property has to pass through a deceased person’s estate before it can be distributed to any heirs, legatees, or beneficiaries. The Personal Representative of an estate is responsible for following the directives of a decedent’s last will and testament or following the rules of intestacy.

The Register of Wills is the administrative body that handles this process. In the event that a proceeding exceeds the scope of the authority of the Register of Wills, the Orphan’s Court hears the matter. A skilled estate attorney can help you or your family deal with the following issues arising from the Orphan’s Court or Register of Wills:

  1. Opening an Estate. Correctly filling out the paperwork necessary with the Register of Wills to get the right estate opened for a decedent is essential. Making a mistake at this point in the process can delay the settling of an estate or force you to start over and change the type of estate opened.
  2. Deadlines and Forms. The Personal Representative of an estate is required to file a number of forms and reports in an estate. These forms are due at certain intervals after an estate is open. An estate attorney can not only help you complete these forms, but asks the right questions to make sure all the correct information is gathered and disseminated to the Register of Wills in a stress-free and timely manner.
  3. Taxes. In Pennsylvania, most folks inheriting assets owe inheritance taxes. Depending on the language in the will its critical the estate handle the taxes in the correct manner for the heirs, legatees, and beneficiaries. A probate attorney can not only make sure the taxes get paid properly, but can assist in filing the tax returns and maximizing prepayment benefits and tax savings.
  4. Family Settlement Agreements. If an estate is administered properly, and all parties are in agreement, then no formal accounting is required. Instead, all parties can sign and agree to settle an estate privately. A skilled attorney is critical to ensure the right steps are taken to secure everyone’s agreement. Not only does this help promote consensus throughout the process, but it helps to guarantee the paperwork is done properly to make sure everything is legal, binding, and well-understood. If no agreement is reached, then a formal accounting and hearing may result.
  5. Heirs, Legatees, and Beneficiaries: Sometimes, folks have questions about how someone else is handling an estate. If you are an interested person, but not the Personal Representative of an estate, you have rights too. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you of the process and make sure an estate is handled property both with the Register of Wills and the Orphan’s Court.

Consulting with an estate attorney about your loved one’s estate can save time, money, and headaches during an estate administration. The attorneys at Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott, & Halstad, LLP have the knowledge and expertise to assist you in administering an estate with the Register of Wills and Orphan’s Court. We have extensive experience with estate administration and probate all across Pennsylvania and have worked often with The Register of Wills for York County, The Register of Wills for Adams County, and many other registers across the state of Maryland.

Contact us today at (410) 848-4444 or by filling out the contact form on this page to get started.


 

Disclaimer – Blog Not Legal Advice – No Attorney-Client Relationship Formed by These Posts or By Any Comments, or By Comments Replying to Comments, on This Blog.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.

The Maryland Orphan’s Court, Register of Wills, and You

maryland register of wills orphans court

When someone dies with property lacking a joint title holder or beneficiary that property is considered probate property. Probate property has to pass through a deceased person’s estate before it can be distributed to any heirs, legatees, or beneficiaries. The Personal Representative of an estate is responsible for following the directives of a decedent’s last will and testament or following the rules of intestacy.

The Register of Wills is the administrative body that handles this process. All significant actions that an estate takes are reviewed and approved by the Orphan’s Court. A skilled estate attorney can help you or your family deal with the following issues arising from the Orphan’s Court or Register of Wills:

  1. Opening an Estate. Correctly filling out the paperwork necessary with the Register of Wills to get the right estate opened for a decedent is essential. Making a mistake at this point in the process can delay the settling of an estate or force you to start over and change the type of estate opened.
  2. Deadlines and Forms. The Personal Representative of an estate is required to file a number of forms and reports in an estate. These forms are due at certain intervals after an estate is open. An estate attorney can not only help you complete these forms, but asks the right questions to make sure all the correct information is gathered and disseminated to the Register of Wills in a stress-free and timely manner.
  3. Handling a Hearing. A hearing in front of the Orphan’s Court often involves questions of both fact and law. A skilled attorney can advise you on your duties as Personal Representative or protect your rights as an heir, legatee, or beneficiary. They can also advise you to make sure you do everything you can to avoid ever having to have a hearing.
  4. Approval of Accounts. An account details all the transactions to date in an estate. The Register of Wills reviews all accounts before sending them to the Orphan’s Court to review. A probate attorney can assist in making sure that the proper income and expenses are reported, the correct distributions are made, and any inheritance taxes are paid properly.
  5. Heirs, Legatees, and Beneficiaries: Sometimes, folks have questions about how someone else is handling an estate. If you are an interested person, but not the Personal Representative of an estate, you have rights too. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you of the process and make sure an estate is handled property both with the Register of Wills and the Orphan’s Court.

Consulting with an estate attorney about your loved one’s estate can save time, money, and headaches during an estate administration. The attorneys at Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott, & Halstad, LLP have the knowledge and expertise to assist you in administering an estate with the Register of Wills and Orphan’s Court. 

Contact us today at (410) 848-4444 or by filling out the contact form on this page to get started.

We have extensive experience with estate administration and probate all across Maryland and have worked often with The Register of Wills for Frederick County, The Register of Wills for Carroll County, The Register of Wills for Baltimore County, and many other registers across the state of Maryland.


 

Disclaimer – Blog Not Legal Advice – No Attorney-Client Relationship Formed by These Posts or By Any Comments, or By Comments Replying to Comments, on This Blog.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.

Probate and Estate Administration: Five Reasons to Hire an Estate Lawyer

estate lawyer maryland

Losing a loved one can be a trying time for any family. Grief and loss consumes an incredible amount of time and mental energy. If you have to deal with a loved one’s Last Will and Testament and probating an estate with either Maryland Register of Wills or Pennsylvania Register of Wills, then consider consulting with a knowledgeable estate attorney. Here are five reasons why hiring an estate lawyer can help your family:

  1. Legal Expertise: The average person deals with estates infrequently. They have no reason to know the right things to do in light of the unique challenge of estate administration. Our attorneys administer estates every day and are well-prepared to advise you and your family about the pitfalls and opportunities an estate entails.
  2. Probate Process: Opening an estate in Maryland or Pennsylvania requires paperwork with the Register of Wills, notices to family members, and potentially handling the sale and title of assets. All of these matters are complex and can cause unintended legal consequences if not handled skillfully and correctly.
  3. Tax Matters: In addition to death taxes, an estate is responsible for income taxes as well. The rules on all of these matters are complex and a Personal Representative can accidentally run afoul of the Maryland Comptroller, Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, or the IRS. A skilled attorney can maximize tax savings in an estate and make sure all the proper rules are followed.
  1. Time: Administering an estate is a time-consuming matter. Oftentimes, the Personal Representative is left doing the work for the benefit of an entire family. Hiring an attorney eases that burden and helps conclude an estate as promptly as the law allows.
  2. Family Harmony: Sometimes estate administration requires tough decisions. The Will can have unexpected provisions, or there may be no way to make everyone happy. A good estate attorney can help alleviate tension and promote understanding rather than acrimony. It’s better to have someone help you and your family avoid common pitfalls than try to have an attorney provide assistance after a problem already arises.

After the death of a loved one, consulting with an estate attorney in Maryland or Pennsylvania can save time, money, and headaches. The attorneys at Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott, & Halstad, LLP have the knowledge and expertise to assist you with an estate. Investing with an attorney initially will help you and your family properly manage and conclude an estate.

Key Differences Between Estates in Maryland and Estates in Pennsylvania

estate planning md pa

By: Dennis M. Twigg, Esq.
Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad, LLP

More and more, people are moving between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This article highlights a few major differences between Pennsylvania and Maryland from an Estate Administration. It’s important to be aware of the differences when draft a will or work on your estate planning documents.

1.     Execution of a will: When drafting a will, it is important to execute in a manner that makes it as easy as possible for your family to probate your will.  All wills should be witnessed by two competent and reliable parties, but in Pennsylvania you will save your heirs some paperwork by using a self-proving will. A self-proving will requires extra signatures and a notary.  Maryland does not have any provision regarding self-proving wills so if you executed a will and Maryland moved to Pennsylvania you may want to do a new document.

2.     Estate Tax: Prior to 2019, Maryland taxes some decedents who have assets less than the Federal Estate Tax exemption. In 2015, if you pass away with more than $1.5 million in assets you may have to file a Maryland Estate Tax Return. That number goes up each year until it matches the Federal Exemption in 2019. Pennsylvania has no Estate Tax for decedents that fall under the Federal Estate Tax Exclusion.

3.     Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax: With a few exceptions, Pennsylvania imposes an inheritance tax on inherited assets. Spouses do not owe inheritance tax and life insurance is exempt. The taxes apply on all assets: both probate assets in an estate and non-probate assets inherited by beneficiary designation or title.  Depending on the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary, this rate can 4.5%, 12%, or 15%. This means that plenty of decedents need Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Returns filed upon their death.

If you move between any two states, it’s important to consult with an attorney licensed in the state where you’re moving. In the case of Maryland and Pennsylvania, it’s important to know about the differences in death taxes and the execution of documents, along with other matters that may be important for your own estate planning situation. In some instances, if your estate planning implications have great financial impact

 

 

 

Disclaimer – Blog Not Legal Advice – No Attorney-Client Relationship Formed by These Posts or By Any Comments, or By Comments Replying to Comments, on This Blog.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.