In Pennsylvania, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you really want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for really implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such choices for you, if you are unable.
A reliable estate planner in Pennsylvania may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Additionally, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Pennsylvania
Estate plans in Pennsylvania almost always have these elements:
Will: A will is a written instrument stating what you want to be done with your assets after you die. There are many problems that can come up in the drafting of a will. Nonetheless, because the will doesn't have any legal or practical effect until after the person who made it died, they can't exactly correct these problems when they become apparent. Thus, quality drafting, usually with the assistance of a seasoned attorney, is essential.
Power of Attorney: Granting someone "power of attorney" gives them the right to make your decisions for you if it becomes impossible for you to do so. This incapacity can arise due to illness, injury, or mental incapacity.
Funeral Arrangements: The determination of what should be done with your body after you die is a very personal one. If you have a preference on this, for religious, or other, reasons, you should discuss this with a family member in advance. You should further put your wishes in writing, but you should not put it ONLY in a will; wills aren't always read immediately after the person who wrote it died. Sometimes, weeks, or even months, go by before the will is read. Obviously, by then it will almost definitely be too late to implement your wishes.
Do I Need a Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorney?
Given the importance of decisions related to estate planning in Pennsylvania, you will probably find that having an accomplished attorney to assist you will be well worth the cost, and might pay for itself in future savings.
Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is one of America's oldest states, being only the second state to join the Union. Formally known as The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the area was settled as early as the 1630's. With 253 members in its legislature, Pennsylvania has the second largest legislature in the nation. Pennsylvania is named after its founder, William Penn.
Education has always been a focal point of Pennsylvania life. The state is home to a large number of nationally recognized universities. Some of these have law schools associated with them, such as the law schools at Penn State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh. A significant number of Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases have also involved education, including Abington v. Shempp (1963) and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).
Pennsylvania's court system is called the "Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania". At the basic level are the Courts of Common Pleas, which are organized into 60 different judicial districts. Appeals are heard either at the Superior Court or at the Commonwealth Court. The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court also hears appeals and other matters of a more complex nature. There are also minor municipal courts with limited jurisdiction beneath the Courts of Common Pleas.
Pennsylvania lawyers are skilled at handling legal claims of all types. Lawyers in Pennsylvania participate in continuing legal education and various programs in order to refine their skills. An experienced Pennsylvania attorney can assist you with any legal disputes or inquiries you might have.