Estate Planning in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. area FAQs
Estate planning attorneys with offices in Berwyn, Wyomissing, Scranton, Wilmington DE, and Washington, D.C. area
Estate planning attorneys at McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. can answer your questions about wills and trusts. Founded in 1983, our firm emphasizes education of and collaboration with our clients so you can make informed, confident decisions. After reading these estate planning FAQs, discuss your specific circumstances with our experienced attorneys and let us help you plan successfully for your family.
Consult Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. area estate planning lawyers to protect your loved ones
Consult PA, DE, MD and Washington, D.C. estate planning attorneys at McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. at 610.648.9300 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
- What is a will?
- Why should I have a will?
- What is a trust?
- Why should I have a trust?
- What is a discretionary trust?
- What is a living trust?
- What is a living will?
- What is a power of attorney?
- What is a guardian?
- What information and documents should I gather before I contact an attorney to prepare a will?
A will is a legal document by which a person makes a distribution of property to take effect after death. A will may be modified or revoked during the lifetime of its maker.
A will is necessary to ensure that your wishes are honored after your death — including your choices of estate administrator, beneficiaries and guardians for your minor children. In many cases, careful preparation of a will can lessen death taxes. If your family includes a person with disabilities or an individual who may require long-term skilled care, you should seriously consider the use of a special needs trust.
A trust involves the transfer of property from one person — called a settlor — to the control of another person — called a trustee — to be held and used for the benefit of a third person — called a beneficiary.
Many estate plans do not require a trust. However, trusts are often essential to ensure the proper management of property left to individuals who are minors, disabled or irresponsible. Trusts — such as credit shelter trusts, disclaimer trusts or irrevocable life insurance trusts — can also significantly reduce the death taxes of larger estates.
A discretionary trust is created either during the lifetime of the settlor or through a person’s will, for the benefit of one or more persons, and in which the trustee retains discretion to determine the level of assets provided to the beneficiaries of the trust. Under current Pennsylvania law, one kind of properly drafted discretionary trust, which may include a special needs trust, can make assets available for a person with disabilities without disqualifying that individual from important government programs.
A living trust is created by an individual during his or her lifetime. The settlor of the trust often manages the trust and will retain the rights designated in the trust. The use of a living trust does not typically save death taxes unless it is created as an irrevocable trust.
A living will is also sometimes called an “advance medical directive” and is a set of medical directives to healthcare professionals made by a person while competent that is to be used in the event that the person should become incapacitated or be in an end-stage medical condition, i.e., a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness.
A power of attorney is a written document signed by a competent individual that authorizes another to act as the individual’s agent — typically in financial or medical matters. If it is drafted as a durable power of attorney, the authority to act by the holder of the power survives the incapacity of the maker.
A guardian is a person appointed by a court to make financial and personal decisions for an adult incapacitated person. In 1992, Pennsylvania enacted a limited guardianship statute that allows a court to find a person to be totally or partially incapacitated and to appoint either a limited guardian or a plenary (full) guardian. The appointment of a family member or any other person as guardian does not increase the financial responsibility of the guardian to support the person with disabilities.
Collect the following information and documents for your appointment with McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.:
- Your wishes for the distribution of your assets
- Names of an executor and alternate executor — individuals you trust to manage the affairs of your estate after you pass
- Names of guardians of your minor children — individuals you trust to care for your children
- The nature of your assets and your approximate net worth — if your net estate, including life insurance, exceeds the current or future federal estate tax threshold, tax planning may be necessary to avoid substantial death taxes
- If your family member has a disability, include information about the nature of the disability and the long-term prognosis for that person
- Your existing estate planning documents, including wills, powers of attorney, trusts, child support orders and guardianship decrees