Estate Planning Lawyer in Scranton, PA
Legal Help with Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Powers of Attorney
Preparing for your future by establishing a will, trust, or power of attorney is essential for ensuring that your wishes are honored and your family is taken care of after your death. The processes involved in estate planning can be complex and generally require sound legal advice and guidance. At Rogan Law, we proudly serve the people of Scranton and deliver the counsel they need to navigate these complicated matters.
Whether you are considering establishing an estate plan or have been named a personal representative responsible for administering an estate, we can help. We have an in-depth understanding of Pennsylvania’s laws and the processes you must go through for establishing wills, trust, powers of attorney, and probate.
Call our Scranton estate planning attorney at (570) 906-8532 or contact us online today.
Estate Planning Attorney in Scranton
Estate planning is a way for you to prepare for your future. When people hear the term "estate planning," they might think of developing a will or trust designating the distribution of assets among beneficiaries. While these two documents are an essential part of an estate plan, the process can go beyond establishing them.
Estate planning can also include naming a power of attorney who makes financial or health care decisions should you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. It may also involve appointing a guardian for your children in the event of your death. Depending on your situation, your estate plan may also allow your family members and heirs to avoid probate and minimize tax liabilities.
How Do I Know If an Estate Plan Is Right for Me?
Many people wonder whether an estate plan is right for them. Often, they feel that it is something only wealthy people or older individuals should consider. However, that's not entirely accurate. An estate plan may be beneficial for anyone who wants to ensure that their family is taken care of and their legacy is preserved after their passing.
An estate plan may be right for you if you have any property, such as a house, car, jewelry, etc., that you want to be distributed to specific people after you have passed. You may also consider establishing an estate plan if you have children and you want them to be cared for by a trusted relative or friend in the event of your death. Additionally, if you have specific end-of-life requests, you may want to have a plan in place that expresses these wishes and appoints a person to make your health care decisions for you when you can't.
Estate planning is very complex, and it is helpful to speak with a lawyer about your situation to make an informed decision about how to proceed with your plan.
When Should I Start an Estate Plan?
You may want to start on your estate plan as soon as possible. Life is unexpected. If you become incapacitated or pass away before you have documents in place expressing your future wishes, decisions about your health care, care for your child or children, or division of your property will be made according to law, which may go against what you wanted for your family.
At Rogan Law, our Scranton, PA, estate plan attorney can help you get started on the process. We'll provide in-depth and clear answers to your questions about how to begin and what you must consider when developing your plan.
What's Included in an Estate Plan?
Depending on your situation, your estate plan can include several different documents and designations.
Your estate plan may contain:
- A will
- A trust
- A power of attorney
- Beneficiary designations
- Guardianship designations
Speak with our estate plan lawyer in Scranton to learn more about ensuring that your future wishes are accurately expressed.
How Do I Make an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is complex. As we covered above, there are various considerations you must take into account when establishing yours. It is essential that you discuss your situation with a knowledgeable attorney. They can make sure that you follow all laws and legal processes to create a properly drafted and valid plan.
Scranton Wills Lawyer
Wills are legal documents that provide direction on how your property will be distributed, who will care for your child or children, and who will manage your estate after your passing. You must be of legal age and sound mind to develop a will. You must also ensure that you follow proper legal procedures and sign the document to ensure that it's valid.
Because disputes may arise as to the contents of your will, it's crucial to work with a skilled attorney when developing yours. They can ensure you go through the appropriate channels to create your will and help minimize issues that may arise and protect your wishes and your family's future.
Is a Will for Everyone?
It's a good idea for anyone with property, children, or specific wishes about their future to have a will in place. Whether you are young, middle-aged, or elderly, having a document that clearly establishes how you want your property distributed, who you want to appoint as guardians for your child or children, and how you want your wealth divided is crucial. It can help avoid or settle disputes and ensures your family is taken care of after your passing. Without a will, you lose control over your legacy and your family's future.
What Happens If I Don't Have a Will?
If you don't have a will in place, a court will appoint a personal representative to manage your estate, and Pennsylvania law will determine how your property is distributed and who takes care of your children.
If you want to specify how your estate is managed after your death, it's vital that you have a will. At Rogan Law, we can help you through the process of establishing this crucial document.
Can I Update My Will?
If you have already established a will and your life situation changes, you can update the document to reflect your new circumstances. Having a current will ensures that your estate is managed how you wish and that the family members you want to designate as beneficiaries receive the assets you want them to have.
What Is an Executor?
When establishing your will, you may appoint an executor. This is the person who manages your estate after your passing. They ensure that your outstanding financial obligations are satisfied and that your assets are distributed as you intended.
The executor plays an important role in ensuring your estate is managed appropriately. As such, it’s essential you name someone who is honest, organized, and trustworthy.
How Can an Attorney Help with My Will?
Although you may draft a will on your own, doing so is not always recommended. There are various laws concerning how this document must be developed. It’s necessary to have an in-depth understanding of the legal process to ensure that your will is valid.
A Scranton wills lawyer will ask you a series of questions to understand your situation and help you draft a document that expresses your specific intentions regarding your estate. They can provide the advice and guidance you need to make the process smoother.
Trusts Attorney in Scranton
A trust is a legal instrument that allows you to maintain control of your assets after your death. As with a will, when you set up a trust, you may designate how your property and wealth are divided amongst your loved ones. Additionally, you appoint a person to be responsible for managing your estate upon your passing.
How Do I Set Up a Trust?
Several steps are involved in ensuring that you establish a valid trust. The process involves deciding on the property to include, who to name as a successor trustee, who will get the assets named in the trust, and signing the document.
The process for setting up a trust does not end with your signature on the document. You must also transfer your assets into the trust. Assets can include things such as bank accounts, stocks, personal property, and real estate.
At Rogan Law, our Scranton trusts lawyer can provide legal guidance throughout the process.
Do I Lose Control of My Assets After Establishing a Trust?
Although you transfer your assets and property into a trust, you do not lose control of it. You can still live in your home, drive your car, and access your bank accounts. Additionally, you can name yourself as a trustee, which means you will still hold the legal titles for your property.
Is It Better to Have a Trust or a Will?
Both trusts and wills are estate planning instruments that allow you to express your wishes for the future and ensure that they are carried out upon your death. While they share this similarity, there are also several differences between the two. For example, you can name guardians for minor children in a will but not in a trust. Also, a will must go through probate before assets are distributed, whereas a trust can generally bypass this process.
Whether you set up a will, a trust, or both depends on your specific situation. For guidance on how to protect your legacy and your family's best interests, speak with an experienced lawyer about your circumstances. An attorney with a firm understanding of Pennsylvania's estate planning laws can address your concerns, answer your questions, and help you make informed decisions about preparing for your future.
Are There Different Types of Trusts?
Several different types of trusts are available. The one you set up depends on your specific circumstances and needs.
You may choose to establish:
- A revocable trust: You can change, cancel, or void this type of trust at any time.
- An irrevocable trust: After you transfer assets into this type of trust, you cannot change it. Generally, an irrevocable trust is established for tax purposes.
- A testamentary trust: Typically, this type of trust is included in the terms of a will. It takes effect after your passing.
- A living trust: You establish this type of trust during your lifetime, and you maintain ownership of the property named in it while you are alive.
Our trusts attorney in Scranton can discuss in detail the various options available to you.
Do I Still Need a Will If I Have a Trust?
A trust doesn't cover all of your assets, and some limitations exist on what it can do. As such, even if you have established a trust, it's also a good idea to have a will. That way, any property not included in your trust will be contained in your will and distributed according to your wishes.
Scranton Probate Attorney
Probate is the legal process a person's estate must go through after the individual's passing. The process ensures that debts are paid, tax obligations are satisfied, and assets are distributed according to Pennsylvania law or the decedent's will.
Probate begins with the personal representative filing a petition to open the estate. The personal representative may either be an executor named in the decedent's will or someone appointed by the State (in circumstances in which the individual did not have a will).
The personal representative has several duties during the estate administration process. They must notify all interested parties that an estate is going through probate. They must then collect and inventory assets, identify debts, and gather tax information. Before they can proceed with distributing assets, they must pay creditors and the IRS. They use estate funds to satisfy these debts.
After the debts are paid, the personal representative can distribute the decedent's assets to beneficiaries. If the decedent had a will, asset distribution follows their wishes; otherwise, Pennsylvania law determines who gets what.
Being a personal representative for a decedent's estate is a big responsibility. There are laws and processes to adhere to, and failure to follow proper channels can expose the personal representative to various liabilities. If you have been named executor of an estate, our probate attorney in Scranton can help you understand your legal obligations. We can guide you from beginning to end to facilitate a smooth and efficient process.
Is Probate Necessary?
Generally, a decedent's estate must pass through probate. However, circumstances exist in which the estate can go through a simplified process or may avoid this step altogether.
If the decedent had a small estate (the total value was under a certain dollar amount), it may be eligible for a simplified probate process. The personal representative must receive approval from the probate court to go this route. If their request is granted, they can settle the decedent's affairs without going through the steps required in the formal probate process.
Another instance in which probate may not be necessary is when the descendent had a living trust. Any property controlled by that trust does not have to go through the court before being distributed to beneficiaries. The successor trustee can manage the estate according to the decedent's wishes. It's important to note that even if the decedent had a trust, any property not put into that trust must go through probate.
Can Any Assets Avoid Probate?
Not all assets must go through probate.
Those that can avoid this process include:
- Joint property: If property was jointly owned (such as a bank account or car) by the decedent and one or more other people, it transfers to the other individuals named on the title.
- Accounts with designated beneficiaries: Accounts such as IRAs and life insurance policies do not have to go through probate. Funds are distributed to the person or people named as beneficiaries on the accounts.
- Property in a trust: As noted earlier, any property that was transferred to a trust can avoid probate.
To learn more about assets that may be distributed without going through probate, reach out to Rogan Law today.
How Long Is the Probate Process?
The length of time between opening and closing an estate depends on the circumstances. Generally, the personal representative has broad authority in settling a decedent’s affairs and does not need to get constant approval from the court at each step. This allows for a more efficient process.
However, issues may arise during estate administration that slow probate down. Because of this, it's necessary to have a knowledgeable lawyer provide assistance at every stage.
Power of Attorney Lawyer in Scranton
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document you (referred to as the principal) develop and sign to authorize another person (referred to as the agent) to make decisions and transactions on your behalf. You can designate an agent as your financial or health care POA.
Developing a POA is essential for ensuring that you have someone you trust in charge of making important decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so because of incapacitation.
What Are the Agent's Duties?
When you establish a POA, you set the terms on what your agent can and cannot do on your behalf.
You may authorize your POA to:
- Conduct real or personal property transactions
- Make banking and financial transactions
- Take out loans on your behalf
- Fulfill tax obligations
- Honor health care wishes
Your POA is legally bound to act in good faith and only engage in transactions you have authorized in the power of attorney document. They must carry out their duties with "care, competence, and diligence." Because your agent can be empowered to make very personal decisions for you that can affect your finances and life, it's essential to choose someone you can trust.
At Rogan Law, we recognize the gravity of appointing someone as your health care and/or financial POA. That is why we will be right beside you through the entire process of developing this important legal document. We'll ensure that you understand your agent's obligations and work to protect your best interests.
When Does a Power of Attorney Become Effective?
It is up to you to decide when you want your agent to handle your affairs on your behalf. You may choose to have the POA take effect right away, at a future time, or when a specified event occurs (such as your becoming disabled or incapacitated).
Can a Power of Attorney Be Modified?
You have the option of modifying your power of attorney at any time. Thus, you can limit some of your agent's decision-making authority or grant additional power to them. Additionally, if you do not feel that your agent is acting in your best interests, you can revoke their authority.
At Rogan Law, our Scranton power of attorney lawyer is ready to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide the legal representation you need throughout the process.
Schedule a consultation by calling us at (570) 906-8532 or contacting us online.
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