Category Archives: Wills and Estates

Join Us, 04/08/2016, for Live Immigration Law Video Seminar!!

On behalf of Prince Law Offices, P.C., I am pleased to announce that the firm’s attorneys will be utilizing new technology to host informative live video sessions devoted to the various areas of practice we cover: Firearms Law, Workers’ Compensation, Immigration, Civil Rights, Social Security, Corporate Law, Energy Law, Criminal Law, Wills Estates, Family Law, and Civil Litigation.

Please join us for the pilot launch of these sessions, next Friday, April 8th at 6PM, where I will be leading a 1/2 an hour discussion on Immigration Law issues related to Family Immigration benefits, including application requirements, filing fees, time-frames, and new developments in the law.

The program we shall use is called  JITSI,  a new open-source platform which will permit our participants’ full interaction with the seminar including video and voice access by which to share comments and questions.  There is no cost to attend.  Further, there are no limits on the number of possible participants so please, by all means, tell your friends, colleagues, family members, etc., about this exciting new program.

Please note in advance that the purpose of these seminars is to provide general information concerning the previously mentioned areas of law, and not to respond to or offer advice concerning individual legal issues.

At 5:45PM on April 8th, I will post the link for interested parties to join me in the Immigration Law seminar.

Stay tuned for the link and I hope to see you on the 8th.

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How Do I Revoke My Will?

It some times happens that circumstances change in a person’s life and the person desires to revoke a prior will.  Perhaps the individual divorced or got remarried and the original will no longer matches his or her intentions for the distribution of his or her estate.  This raises the question of how does one effectively revoke a prior will?

The answer is contained in 20 Pa.C.S. § 2505.  Pennsylvania law provides several methods for revoking a will.  The first, and best, is to create a new will.  This method is strengthened by including language in the new will explicitly revoking the prior will.

Another method would be to execute a revocation.  A revocation would be a written document explicitly revoking the prior will without creating a new will, thereby creating a “will vacuum” of sorts.  The revocation, however, must conform with the prior will, meaning that it must be “executed and proved in the manner required of wills.”

The third way to revoke a will would be to physically destroy the document.  The statute provides that “by being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revocation,” a will may be revoked.  This method, however, typically requires witnesses to verify the testator’s intent to revoke the will and is, therefore, not the most efficient method of revocation.

If you want to revoke a prior will, whether or not you are interested in creating a new will, please contact me, Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire.  My firm offers free initial consultations during which I can review your estate planning needs.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

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My Parent Scribbled Some Instructions at the Bottom of the Will… Are the Instructions Valid and Enforceable?

Here is a common scenario: Your parents went to an attorney years and years ago and executed basic wills, leaving their respective estates to each other, then to their three children.  A few years ago your father passed away and the entire estate passed to your mother.  Following your father’s death, relations between your mother and your brother were strained.  One day your mother stumbles upon her will and wants to make some changes, but rather than executing a new will, your mother hand writes at the bottom of the will, “I want each grandchild to receive $2,000.  I want my sister, Jane, to have our mother’s wedding band.  I do not want my son, John, to inherit any of my estate.”  Your mother passes and you are the executor of the estate.  Are your parent’s final instructions valid and enforceable and your brother is disinherited?

Pursuant to 20 Pa.C.S. § 2502(1), the answer is no.  The final instructions are not valid and enforceable.  Section 2502(1) provides that “The presence of any writing after the signature to a will, whether written before or after its execution, shall no invalidate that which precedes the signature.”  As a result, because the main section of the will provides for a distribution to all three children, the language at the bottom of the will, after the signature, that disinherits your brother is not enforceable.  The same is likely true for the specific gifts to the grandchildren and of the wedding band.

In order to effectuate these changes, a new will or a codicil (addendum) must be executed.  If you or a loved one is interested in making changes to a will, please contact me, Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire.  My firm offers free initial consultations during which we can review your estate planning needs and any prior wills to determine how best to secure your intentions.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

 

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What is a “Durable” Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is an essential element of most estate planning.  It authorizes another person, typically a spouse or child, to perform legal actions on your behalf.  Examples of the type of authority in a normal power of attorney executed for estate purposes include making gifts, accessing safety deposit boxes, investing money, and filing taxes on your behalf.

For estate planning purposes, however, a simple power of attorney is insufficient.  It is normally recommended that a Durable Power of Attorney be executed.  This begs the question: What makes the power of attorney “durable?”  And what does “durable” even mean?

The answer is contained in 20 Pa.C.S. § 5604.  A durable power of attorney is one that grants legal authority to another on your behalf which will withstand any incapacity or disability that you may experience.  In other words, your designated agent may continue to legally act on your behalf even if you are unable to perform the same act or make the same decision.

The benefit of a durable power of attorney is predictability and continuity in the event of your incapacity or disability.  For example, lets say that you executed a durable power of attorney designating your child as your agent.  Now, in the event that you suffer an instantly debilitating event, like a stroke, your child can step-in and ensure the continued and timely payments on obligations like mortgages and credit cards without penalty.  Additionally, if the powers are included in the Durable Power of Attorney, your child will be authorized to make medical decisions consistent with your wishes.

If you or a loved one needs a Durable Power of Attorney or wants to update a Durable Power of Attorney, please contact me, Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire.  My firm offers free initial consultations, during which we can review your situation and prior documentation in order to evaluate your estate planning needs.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

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The Importance of Earnest,… When You’re Dead

by Thomas R. Beveridge, Esquire

Prince Law Offices, PC

(610) 845-3803 x81104

I once had the honor of being appointed as the executor of a close relative’s estate following his untimely passing.   While the first several days were shadowed by sorrow and grief, friends and family soon bonded together to begin sorting through the thousands of material things amassed during his lifetime.   As the days passed and conversation soon turned to long ago memories in celebration of his life, my own mind was filled with confusion fueled by box upon box of papers, envelopes, keys, post-its, loose change, etc.   After sorting my 7th box of old bills from the 1990s, I started to fill my mental chalkboard with dos and don’ts for this article.

The executor of an estate is the person (or, on occasion, a professional company) appointed by the deceased person to fulfill his or her wishes after death.  Generally, this directive requires the executor to find the will, gather all the assets, pay off all of the debts and taxes, protect all valuable property including the residence, assist others to assure proper information is provided to wrap up any tangential issues, and, ultimately, distribute whatever is left in the estate to each of the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s directives.   While these duties seem relatively straightforward, a lack of information organization can quickly challenge the executor with what feels like a series of daunting and overwhelming tasks.

Having looked into the abyss of manila envelopes and age-old utility bills packed into cardboard boxes stacked chest high and six deep, I’ve resolved to provide my executor with a Roadmap to the Beveridge Estate.   To achieve this task, I purchased a nice hardbound journal and a plastic file folder to hold the original copies of important documents.   I also rented a safety deposit box at my local bank to house this information and keep safe any valuables or family heirlooms.

In the first part of my Roadmap, I list my immediate wishes for my funeral and burial. In this particular section, one can be as detailed as you wish, such as including preferred hymns or the length of the services.  My particular Roadmap includes information for my executor to locate my prepaid burial plot and what I would like inscribed upon my tombstone.   I also include contact information for the organizations to which I belong who will want to participate in some way during the service.

The next section of my Roadmap contains current contact information for my attorney, accountant, primary care physician, pastor, financial counselor and all other relevant contacts who may have some bearing on issues involved in the development and distribution of my assets and payment of my debts.    Here too, I include addresses, emails and phone numbers of relatives that may be out of the area or overseas.  I also record and file my birth certificate and social security card.   Likewise, if I had actual military service, any information involving Veterans Benefits would also be entered here.

While my will spells out my wishes pertaining to care of my child in the event of my death, I include a copy of her birth certificate and contact information for all of her guardians listed therein – both primary and contingent.   Additionally, I list several people whom I trust to care for her in the event such guardians are not immediately available.

In the next two sections, I list all of my primary assets, followed by a listing of all debts to be paid, with account numbers and contact information.   If you have a death benefit for any debts such as mortgage insurance, etc., list the policy information and place the policy itself in the file folder referencing this entry on the Roadmap.    Also of critical importance, list and store your life insurance policies and any other information such as IRAs, 401(k)s, annuity contracts, etc., so that your executor can distribute any payments to your beneficiaries.    Here too, I keep the originals of any bonds, stocks, mutual fund information, deeds, titles to vehicles, trust information, etc..  Finally, I include a reference in the Roadmap to my checking and savings accounts in order that my executor may track down and close all such accounts after my death.

All information pertaining to my businesses is outlined in the next chapter of my Roadmap.   Here, not only do I list the relevant information regarding my business, but I also reference any original documentation that will be placed in the file folder such as units of ownership, stock certificates, membership interest certificates, etc.   Additionally, I outline my wishes as to disposition of my businesses and assets in the event of my untimely demise before I can actually transfer any such interests before retirement.

Regarding the actual physical assets of my estate, the Roadmap contains a dedicated section for “Stuff of Value”.  Logically, this area should include a list of any coin collections, baseball card collections, firearms, jewelry, china, gold and silver, antiques, art, etc.   Next to each of these entries, I record the location of the items and estimated value at the specific time of entry.   While is it not critical to list each and every item of the household, may people may wish to list such things as furniture and electronics as well.  If not specifically bequeathed in my will, I include a memorandum (which is referenced in my will) indicating the individual or organization to whom I wish these particular assets to pass.

While my Roadmap contains several other sections dedicated to charity bequests, information updates, passwords for website access to accounts, etc., the primary purpose behind its creation is to relieve my executor of the initial shock and awe of such a daunting task as administering my estate.   Importantly, one of the first directives I list is to hire my family attorney to assist in handling the estate.   My attorney has the original will in his vault and will be prepared to assist my executor to see my estate to its ultimate closure.

If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs, please feel free to contact Prince Law Offices, PC, at (610) 845-3803 to schedule an appointment.  I will be happy to assist to you.

© 2012 Prince Law Offices, PC

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New Member of the NRA Heritage Society

Today, it was my distinct honor and privilege to be inducted into the National Rifle Associations (NRA) Heritage Society. As I am not shy or embarrassed by my support of the NRA, I have no qualms about disclosing that I left 15% of my overall estate to the Civil Rights Defense Fund, commonly referred to as the CRDF. While there are over 20 different non-profit organizations and sub-endowments of the NRA (see my article here listing and offering free gun trust amendments for those wishing to list NRA a beneficiary of their trust), the CRDF has a special place in my heart, as it is responsible for supporting litigation to protect the 2nd Amendment. Without the CRDF, many individuals would be unable to defend against draconian charges and anti-gun District Attorneys. Furthermore, the 2nd Amendment would be trampled in the Civil arena, as well.

I was also informed that I am the youngest Heritage Society member. So, I put this challenge out to all my viewers: become the youngest Heritage Society Ambassador/member. If time has passed you by, it isn’t too late. You can always add the NRA to your estate planning. Whether it is listing a non-profit NRA organization as the beneficiary of your 401k or leaving qualifying real estate to the NRA, you can support the NRA and ensure that your grandchildren still enjoy the Right to Keep and Bear Arms that you and I do. It’s only through such donations that the NRA can continue to protect the 2nd Amendment, whether it is through litigation, legislative action or safety training.

If you want to discuss leaving a portion of your estate to the NRA or amending your existing estate planning, contact me today, so that we can, together, ensure that your desires are carried out and that generations to come can continue to enjoy the protections of the 2nd Amendment.

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Who will walk your dog when you’re gone?

As a society, we’re known for our love of animals. The amount of money spent every year on our pets, including food, supplies, and toys now exceeds $41,000,000,000.00. There are approximately 72,000,000 domesticated dogs in the US. It’s not surprising that as a society, we’re considering the welfare of our companions once we’re gone.

In 2006, Pennsylvania joined the growing number of states recognizing that some pet owners want to provide for the needs of their pets by passing legislation that recognizes a trusts as a binding instrument. A “PET TRUST” is constructed like any other trust, but concentrates on the anticipated needs of the pet. Your trust appoints someone as trustee, and preferably, someone else as the animals’ caregiver. Direction is given regarding the care you wish your pet to receive and how to determine if and when its time to consider euthanasia.

Surprisingly, many pet owners have given thought to their pets’ needs, and often make arrangements with a friend or relative, leaving them a lump sum of money and the animals in their will. The sad truth is that many of those animals end up at the pound just days after their owner passes on. The neighbor was “humoring” the owner and never really intended to care for the animal, but appreciates the bequest. Or, the family member brings the animal home only to find that someone else in the home develops an allergy. Or, any of thousands of scenarios where the pets’ best interests are the last thing considered.

A properly prepared pet trust will anticipate the pets’ needs and provide for them within the allocated financial resources of their owner. Some thoughts might include:

A. Avoiding any incentive for the caregiver to shorten the pet’s life. Consider “rewarding” the caregiver for the longer life enjoyed by the pet by maintaining annual payments until the pet passes on. Don’t leave the balance of the trust to the caretaker on the pet’s demise. B. Consider funding the trust with a life insurance policy on your life that names the trust as beneficiary. C. Provide for a replacement of the caregiver if he should be unable or unwilling to continue to serve. D. Place the Trustee in charge of the monthly payments to the caregiver and give him the authority to terminate the caregiver if the level of care is unacceptable or not consistent with the terms of the trust. E. Define the point in your pet’s life when the caregiver can consider euthanasia, such as when two veterinarians agree the pet is in pain and there is no chance of recovery.

Lastly, always maintain a log of your pet’s likes and dislikes such as their favorite foods, toys, and people. Warn of situations where your pet doesn’t function well, such as in large crowds or in the presence of other pets. Ask yourself what you would want to know if you were going to be the one responsible for the pet. If there is one thing you can do for your pet as a thank you for its companionship, it should be planning for its health and happiness after you’re gone.

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