What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of your estate. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.
Estate planning is more than just having a will, although a will is an important part of an estate plan.
What are the three key documents?
We prepare three documents in every estate plan: a will, a power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney.
A will disposes of your probate assets. Your will does not control your assets that you own jointly with another person or for which you have a beneficiary clause. Your will does not control your IRA, 401(k), or life insurance policies. Your will does control assets that are in your own name.
If you are married, it is important that you and your spouse both have wills in the event of simultaneous death.
Power of Attorney
A POA is a document that gives your authority to a person you choose to be your agent. The agent's authority is not affected by your subsequent disability, so your agent can take care of your financial affairs if you are no longer able to for any reason.
The alternative to a POA is a court guardianship proceeding, which is time-consuming, expensive, and puts your affairs in the hands of strangers.
Healthcare POA/Living Will
This document does two things. First, you appoint an agent to deal with your medical affairs if you are unable to. Second, you can specify that you do not want to be kept alive artificially and can direct your agent to take appropriate action to carry out your wishes.
How much does it cost?
We usually do basic estate planning for an individual or married couple on a flat fee basis. More complex estate plans cost more and may be done on a hourly fee basis, depending upon the circumstances. We will always discuss legal fees with you up front and will put the scope of our representation and fees in writing.
What is involved?
Go to the Library section of our website and read the Memo to New Clients – Estate Planning. Gather your information and call us to schedule an appointment. The first appointment typically takes and hour or so and we will figure out what you want to do and what is best suited for you and your family. Legal documents will be prepared and sent to you in draft form for your review. You'll come in again to formally execute all of the documents in accordance with Pennsylvania law.