Benefits of Filing a Federal Estate Tax Return Even When No Tax is Due

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Written by: Christopher N. McGann, Esq.

Filing the United States Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return form, Federal Form 706, is not just reserved for those decedents whose gross estate (calculated as gross assets plus lifetime taxable gifts) is greater than the lifetime exclusion amount (currently $11,700,000.00). There are a number of practical considerations, however, that may make filing a Form 706 beneficial, if not almost obligatory. Here are some examples to consider.

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Advanced Directives 101

Posted by on Jul 29, 2021 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Written by: Cynthia Neutson

What is an Advanced Directive? An Advanced Directive, also known as a Living Will, is a legal document that states what medical treatment you do, or do not want, in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot convey these wishes for yourself.

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How Can I Revoke a Power of Attorney?

Posted by on May 27, 2021 in Powers of Attorney | 0 comments

Written by: Robert A. Stewart, Esq.

Recently, a friend who lives in New Jersey called and asked me “how can I revoke a Power of Attorney?”  It so happens that this seems to be an increasingly common question as people are now living longer and revisiting planning decisions they made fifteen or twenty years ago.

Before I describe how I answered the question, let me remind everyone that a durable power of attorney is a critically important estate planning document because it allows you to decide who will be able to handle your financial affairs if you cannot. Specifically, it is a written document by which an individual – called the principal –  grants the authority to one or more other individuals – called the agent or attorney-in-fact – to perform specified acts on behalf of the principal whether or not the principal is physically or mentally incapacitated.

If you do not have a Power of Attorney and become unable to manage your financial affairs, it may become necessary for a court to appoint a “guardian” to handle your finances. Your court-appointed guardian may not be the person you would have chosen and will have whatever powers the court gives them.  So, having a Power of Attorney enables you to choose the person you think is best suited to step-in for you in the event of your incapacity. It allows you to decide, while you are competent, not only who that person will be, but what powers they will have.

In response to my friend’s question, I had to first ask if he had given the actual written and signed Power of Attorney document to his Agent, who happened to be his brother. And he responded “no” but had given him a copy. I then told my friend that he needed to notify his brother in writing that he was revoking the Power of Attorney. The revocation should include his name, a statement that he is of sound mind, and clearly state the intention to revoke the Power of Attorney. The written revocation should also specify the date the original Power of Attorney was signed by the principal and identify the person selected as the agent. The written notification must be sent to the person named as the agent and in some instances to any institutions or agencies that have a copy of the Power of Attorney.

In addition to the written notice of revocation, a new Power of Attorney document will have to be prepared if my friend wants to appoint a different person as his agent and that document will typically include a provision stating that  all prior Powers of Attorney are revoked.

Please contact me or one of our estate planning attorneys if we can be of any assistance in helping you with your estate planning needs.

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The Not-So-Obvious Reasons for Updating Estate Planning Documents

Posted by on Apr 29, 2021 in Estate Planning | 0 comments

Written by: Christopher N. McGann, Esq.

Updating your estate planning documents is something that should be done periodically throughout life. How often and to what extent depends on each person’s circumstances. There are several material changes in life that quickly come to mind when evaluating whether to update a will, including:

  • Marriage (and subsequent marriages)
  • Divorce
  • Child or grandchild born
  • Receipt of a substantial cash windfall
  • Change in tax laws
  • Desire to disinherit someone

While the above are prudent reasons to revisit your estate plan, there are other occurrences in life which may warrant sitting down and taking another look at your estate planning documents.

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Pet Trusts: Because Pets are Family Too

Posted by on Apr 19, 2021 in Trusts | 0 comments

Written by: Cynthia Neutson, Trusts & Estates Paralegal

We all know that providing for loved ones in the event of our death or incapacity is important.  But what about our pets?  Many people view their pets as family and they too should be thought of when you create or update your estate plan.  All 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have pet trust laws that allow you to provide housing and care for any pets who survive you.  In Pennsylvania, 20 Pa.C.S. §7738 and in New Jersey, N.J. Stat. § 3B:11-38 are the laws that govern Pet Trusts.  Both laws only cover animals that survive you.  In Pennsylvania the trust terminates upon the death of the animal or the last surviving animal covered by the trust.  In New Jersey, the trust terminates upon the death of the animal or the last surviving animal covered by the trust or after 21 years, whichever occurs earlier.

In addition to providing funds for their care, a Pet Trust allows you to specify how your pet(s) should be cared for.  From telling future caregivers what they eat, how many times they should be walked, which vet you prefer they see, to what their favorite toys and treats are.  Both PA and NJ laws allow you to appoint a trustee, but if you do not appoint someone, the Court may make the appointment.

Of course, the big question is “where will my pet live and who will care for them?”  You don’t want your pet to end up in a shelter.  If you are unsure that a trusted friend or family member can or would be willing to care for your pet, contact a local rescue and see what policies they have for providing for pets left behind.  The rescue may even agree to have you specifically name them in your documents so everyone knows where your pet will go.  There are hundreds of rescues that cover virtually every species of animal, from horses to lizards.  So, if you are just starting the Estate Planning process or ready to update your existing plan, don’t forget to include your pets.

For additional information on creating a Pet Trust, please contact the Hill Wallack LLP Trusts & Estates practice group at 215-579-7700 or estates@hillwallack.com.

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