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Why Everyone Needs a Will and an Estate Plan

May 26, 2023 • | Curran Estate & Elder Law, PLLC
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the management and disposal of a person's estate during the person's life in preparation for a person's future incapacity or death.

Some still hold onto the old-school idea of estate planning being needed only by people living on an estate, owning a business, or having significant wealth. This isn’t true, as explained in the article “Everyone needs a will—and here’s why” from JOLT News.

Times change, and so do laws and possibilities. Estate planning is vital for everyone. It includes planning for incapacity, which can happen to anyone at any age and stage of life.  for finance and health are two of the most important estate planning tools. If you become incapacitated, you will have named another person to manage your financial, legal and health affairs.

Without durable powers of attorney, your family will need to go to court and have a guardian named to be able to pay your bills and tackle other everyday tasks we usually don’t think twice about. Unfortunately, obtaining guardianship is a lengthy and expensive process. Having an experienced estate planning attorney create a power of attorney customized to your particular situation is a far better option.

Powers of attorney expires upon death, which is when a last will and testament is needed. This is the foundation of distributing your assets. An estate planning attorney will review your situation thoroughly to make the best plan for you and your family.

A common mistake occurs when people think they can circumvent estate planning by adding another person to their bank and investment accounts. This, unfortunately, makes the accounts vulnerable to a number of bad outcomes. For example, if the person you name has any problems with debt, their creditors can come after your  jointly-owned assets.  Upon the original owner’s death, the assets in the jointly-owned accounts will be distributed directly to the joint owner, which may or may not have been the intention. As a result, other heirs will have no ability to recover those assets.  If the joint owner dies before the original owner, the original owner may have to pay inheritance tax on his/her own money.

The Will is the most common planning tool. It must be signed by the person making the Will, known as the Testator, in the presence of witnesses. In Pennsylvania, two witnesses who are not named within the document are required, along with a notary.

Your Will is the document used to dictate how you want your assets distributed at your death and names an executor who will administer the estate and distribute assets. If you have minor children, you’ll name a primary and secondary guardian to raise the children in the event of your passing.  There are also many other options that can be used to suit your wishes -- trusts for children, trusts for second marriage families, pet trusts, and much more.  We, at Curran Estate & Elder Law, of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, specialize in this area and are happy to assist you.

Reference: JOLT News (April 19, 2023) “Everyone needs a will—and here’s why”

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