By Dennis McAndrews
A recent article in a major newspaper spoke of the effects of the increased federal estate tax exemption ($11,400,000 for individuals and $22,800,000 for couples in 2019, as well as portability, which allows spouses to utilize both exemptions without complex planning), upon estate planning practices, and noted that many larger law firms are “getting out of the business” of estate planning, because the need for complex estate planning to avoid federal estate taxes has been dramatically reduced. While the need for “complex estate planning” for individuals or couples below the high federal exemption has been reduced, the basic necessity of having a properly drafted will has never been greater, and our Estates and Trusts Department is fully engaged in this work. Consider the following important reasons why every adult should have a will in place, even if it is a relatively basic document– all of which are completely independent of any federal estate tax considerations.
— You decide how your estate will be distributed–it is said that “everyone has a will, either a document you create for yourself, or one that the government creates for you through intestacy laws”.
— To avoid a more complex, lengthy, and costly probate process which can result from lack of proper planning.
— To identify who will address the affairs of your estate as your executor/executrix, who will collect your assets, pay your debts, satisfy any tax obligations, and make proper distributions to beneficiaries with the least amount of discord or delay.
— To identify who will pay taxes (such as the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax) on assets which pass to others as a result of your death, as careful planning must be involved to ensure that the estate does not pay taxes for individuals who receive benefits through jointly held property, unless that is your intent.
— To decide who will care for your minor children.
— To provide for children or individuals with special needs through a minor’s trust or a special needs trust.
— To identify individuals who should, for one reason or another, not be beneficiaries of your estate.
— To make gifts to charities held in high esteem.
These are only some of the important reasons to consult with an attorney to develop a proper estate plan, which generally will include a will, power of attorney, and an advance medical directive. In our experience, virtually no will drafted through the internet satisfies every important consideration of a client, and our estate administration attorneys frequently address issues which the decedent did not anticipate when filling out a form online. Our rates for preparing estate plans are reasonable, and can be found at our website by CLICKING HERE. We look forward to working with you to prepare a proper estate plan for you and your family.