Areas of Practice
Guardianship / Incapacity
When a person is incapacitated, he or she is not able to manage their own financial or health matters. In order for other persons to be able to act for you, only a court-appointed guardian or a designated agent identified in a written durable power of attorney may act for you. If you do not have in place written durable powers of attorney designating an agent, application to a court for guardian appointment is the only other option. Court guardianship proceedings take time and cause delay, are expensive, and the court has the right to choose a guardian who may not be someone you would choose. Using written durable powers of attorney, you have the right to designate those persons you would rely on to manage your affairs during your period of disability, and they may act immediately without delay.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, health, or some other legal matter. A Power of Attorney specifies the powers you give to your agent. The powers can be limited or broad. The person authorizing the other to act is called the principal, grantor, or donor of the power, and the person authorized to act is the agent. Creating a durable power of attorney requires that you have the required legal and mental capacity to do so. If someone is already incapacitated, it is not possible for that person to execute a valid power. If a person does not have the capacity to execute a power of attorney (and does not already have a durable power in place), often the only way for another party to act on their behalf is to have a court impose a conservatorship or a guardianship.
Estate administration involves the probate of the decedent’s estate and typically includes three broad actions: asset collection, inventory and appraisal; collecting and paying debts and taxes; distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. After being appointed, the personal representative is expected to document all of the decedent’s assets. This documentation is often referred to as the inventory. The personal representative must also inform the decedent’s creditors that the decedent has died.
In its broadest sense, elder law is the specialized field of law that addresses the diverse legal needs of aging baby boomers and their elderly parents. This includes the following legal areas: Disability planning, including special needs planning; long term care planning, including Medicaid planning and veterans benefits; estate planning; guardianship and conservatorship; estate settlement, including probate and trust administration; elder abuse, both personal and financial.
Inheritance Tax Returns
Pennsylvania Inheritance tax is imposed as a percentage of the value of a decedent’s estate transferred to beneficiaries by will, heirs by intestacy and transferees by operation of law. The tax rate varies depending on the relationship of the heir to the decedent. Inheritance tax payments are due upon the death of the decedent and become delinquent nine months after the individual’s death. If inheritance tax is paid within three months of the decedent’s death, a 5 percent discount is allowed.
Nursing Home Planning
Private Pay is generally the first line of defence for healthcare expenses. People pay out of pocket for prescription drugs, co-payments, deductibles, additional services, and non-healthcare expenses (such as respite, housekeeping, care management, and companion services) not covered by insurance or other benefits. Medicare is a federal government-run health insurance program for those over age 65. It covers hospital and doctor expenses, as well as some preventive procedures.
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person’s life, for a management and disposal of that person’s estate during the person’s life and at and after death, while minimizing gift, estate, generation-skipping transfer, and income tax. Estate planning includes planning of incapacity as well as a process of reducing or eliminating uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximizing the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. The ultimate goal of estate planning can be determined by the specific goals of the client, and may be as simple or complex as the client’s needs dictate. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.
Probate is the legal process whereby a will is “provided” in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. The granting of probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will. A probate court or a surrogate decides the legal validity of a testator’s (person’s) will and grants its approval, also known as granting probate, to the executor. The probated will then becomes a legal instrument that may be enforced by the executor in the law courts if necessary.
Small Business Planning
Starting a business is an exciting proposition, but it’s also an incredibly challenging undertaking. The business structure you choose will have legal and tax implications.
A sole proprietorship is the simplest and the most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses, and liabilities. A limited liability company is a hybrid type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.
Special Needs and Medicaid
Chances are there is or will be someone in your family (child, grandchild, nephew, niece, parent, grandparent) who will need long-term help managing personal care and/or finances. Careful planning is necessary to craft a plan that will supplement government benefits that are worth preserving, is flexible enough to adjust to changes in future benefits, will preserve and expand assets, will make sure this person receives proper care, and may even save taxes. For a special needs trust, the proper funding, implementation, and periodic review are especially critical because it may have to last a lifetime and often cannot be replaced. Once the plan is in place, it will need to be managed.
Real estate transactions, unlike other contracts, not involving an offer to purchase or lease real property, are required to be in writing. Real property transfers or leases for more than a year must be written to be enforceable. Every state’s real estate law governing home sales requires purchase contracts and other real estate contract forms, such as easements, leases for rental property for longer than a year, or seller’s disclosure statement, to be in writing to be enforceable. Lot or land purchase contracts are subjects to the Statute of Frauds which is the law requiring written real estate contract forms in home sales and other land contract situations.
Wills and Trusts
A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator’s wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator’s death. Generally speaking, your will affects only those assets, that are titled in your name at your death and for which there is no designated beneficiary.
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