Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Courtyard Marriott / Monroeville
3962 Wm Penn Highway
Monroeville, PA 15146
Between Sheetz and Eat ‘n Park
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Holiday Inn Express
6552 Route 22
Delmont, PA 15626
Behind Lamplighter Restaurant on Rt. 22
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
TownePlace Suites / Pittsburgh
2785 Freeport Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
Just off of Exit 48 of PA Turnpike
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
The Estate Planning Centers
3824 Northern Pike, Suite 801B
One Monroeville Center
Monroeville, PA 15146
Just west of Red Lobster on Rt. 22
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Holiday Inn Express
6552 Route 22
Delmont, PA 15626
Behind Lamplighter Restaurant

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No one wants to spend much time thinking about death, disability or severe health crises, but experience has shown that taking the time to establish a comprehensive Estate Plan is one of the most effective ways to prepare and provide for your family in the event of these calamities.  With proper planning, you are in command of your finances, protecting your family from the same risks and concerns which you would have when you were healthy.  Planning further reduces the delay, expense, frustration and inconvenience which come with having to ‘take over’ the finances during difficult times.  Learn more about Estate Planning to start putting in place your plan to protect the ones you love.

Are you in command of your Estate Plan?  If so, you should be able to answer the following questions:
1.    Who will the court appoint to care for my minor children if my spouse and I are dead or incompetent?
2.    How much of my estate will be subject to the 45% federal estate tax?
3.    How are my affairs handled if an accident leaves me incapable to do so, temporarily or permanently?
4.    Which assets go to family, friends or charity when I die?
5.    What happens to my pension, 401k and/or IRA if I die
6.    Will my business continue if I die unexpectedly?
7.    Do I want to simplify the probate process for my family
8.    Are my step-children treated the same or different from my own natural children
9.    How will my nursing home costs be handled?
10.     What happens to money I gave my child if they are sued or get divorced?
Confident in your answers? Congratulations.  Most people aren’t.  If you are a little unsure for some (most?) of these, then Estate Planning is for you.  It may not be fun, but it is something which caring adults do for their family and themselves.


While a Will is one important part of Estate Planning, it is far from all of it.  Yes, a will is important to specify how you want your assets to pass at your death, to the extent that they remain in your estate.  You also may consider a Trust, which lets you control assets before and after your death, including provisions for support, protection, creditor avoidance, benefit eligibility, and many other goals which are important to you and your intended beneficiaries.  Powers of Attorney are often used to provide for someone to manage your financial and/or personal affairs when you may be unable to, such as during periods of incapacity, severe illness, or distant travel.  Living Wills and Health Care Proxies are prepared to your specifications to permit important medical decisions to be made pursuant to your own wishes, even when you are unable to communicate those wishes.  

Other areas include Special Needs Planning for individuals with physical, mental or emotional disabilities, Estate Tax planning, and avoidance, Nursing Home care expense planning, Guardianship planning for minor children or for adults losing their competence to handle their own affairs, Probate administration planning, and more.


A Will is a carefully planned and signed document in which you can specify who will receive your property in your estate, who will take care of your children if you and your spouse can’t, what types of control or trust provisions will surround gifts to your beneficiaries, and who will administer all the steps required to make your Will effect your goals after your death.  
All adults should have a Will.  Otherwise, you are just leaving it up to the State to decide who gets your property under an inflexible statute.  We all carefully manage our affairs during our lives, and yet too often, people abandon their plans a death by dying without a will.  This keeps your lifelong plans from ever crossing the finish line of passing them on to whom you want, in the manner you find best.   Even if a will could only serve one function, to name your proposed guardian for minor children in the event of death of both parents, then a Will has served a valuable purpose indeed.  Nevertheless, your will can do far more, depending upon your own plans and goals for your estate.

Wills, however, don’t necessarily affect all of your property.  If you own your home or other assets jointly with another person, such as a spouse, then title may pass directly to them, outside of your will.  Some contact benefits, such as life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and pensions, can go directly to an identified beneficiary if proper planning is done ahead of time.  Even bank accounts and similar financial accounts can be titled in a manner that they go directly to another person on your death, without passing through your estate or your will.  Numerous income, estate and gift tax consequences can accompany such provisions, so you must have the advice of a professional to properly anticipate and plan these.  Finally, assets transferred to one or more Trusts during your lifetime usually will not pass as part of your estate, and instead are handled pursuant to the terms of the trust you established during your lifetime.


Trusts seem mysterious to many people, and are often considered to be only for the ultra-wealthy.  Instead, a Trust is a useful tool for many people who have the need, or desire, to control their assets during or after their life.  A Trust is created by a document which directs that another person (Trustee) will hold your property for the benefit of you or someone else (the Beneficiary).  That’s it.  If you want to establish a trust which will manage your money if you are incapacitated or in a nursing home, you can do that. If you want a trust to shelter money you give to your children from being attacked by creditors or future-ex-spouses, you can. If you want a trust to coordinate your finances in a way which minimizes your estate tax liability, or eliminates if all together, you can do it.  It is an amazingly flexible device, and can be used during your lifetime, or after your death, or even both.

Living Trust vs. Testamentary Trust

There are two main ways trusts are created; Living and Testamentary.  A Trust which is created during your lifetime is called a Living Trust.  A trust which is created through the operation of your will is called a Testamentary Trust.  Many people refer to a Living Trust as though it means only one type of trust, but in fact a Living Trust can be incredibly complex or short and to the point.  Most Living Trusts are created in order to minimize taxes, shelter assets, control financial decisions, or minimize the inconvenience of Probate proceedings after death. AT the Estate Planning Center, we can help you navigate these waters.


A Power of Attorney authorizes someone to act for you, with your authority, in matters described in the Power of Attorney document.  The actions of the person holding this Power, called your

Agent, are as binding on you as though you did them yourself.  Thus, it is a powerful tool for helping to handle your affairs when you are unable to.  This Power of Attorney ordinarily would become invalid if you became incapacitated.  Unfortunately, that is exactly when most people want the benefit of a power of attorney, so that their financial and personal affairs can remain in order while the can no tend to them themselves. For such purposes a ‘Durable Power of Attorney’ is needed.  A Durable power is one which does not expire when you become incapacitated or incompetent.  Another option is a Springing Power, which doesn’t even become effective until certain conditions are met (such as your doctor saying you are not able to govern your own affairs), at which time the power then ‘springs’ into action.  In any event, all Powers of Attorney terminate upon your death; since you couldn’t take any action after that, your agent can’t either.
Financial and Health Care Powers of Attorney

Two frequent uses of the Power of Attorney tools are for dealing with health and financial matters while you are unable to do so.  A financial Power can be drafted very broadly, giving your Agent the ability to do virtually everything you would do if you are able.  Alternatively, the power can be drafted narrowly if you want your agent to be permitted only to handle specific, limited tasks.  As with most of our panning tools at the Estate Planning Centers, a wide range of options in-between can be created in order to tailor this tool to your specific situation. Frequently the power of attorney is included in an estate plan to provide for someone to step in and take care of your financial affairs in the event that you suffer a serious incapacitating condition or injury.  

The other common use for the POA is to permit someone to make important or routine health care decisions for you.  Suppose you are injured in a car accident and need a blood transfusion, or experimental surgery, but you are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate your own desires in this regard.  A Health Care Power permits someone to act as your agent, or proxy, to make such decisions on your behalf.  By putting this power in the hands of someone close to you, you enable the doctors to have a quickly and clearly identified person to contact for such matters, and you have identified the one person with whom you can and should share your thoughts about medical care, life-extending treatments, quality vs. quantity of life, etc, which will help to inform their decision-making on your behalf if they should ever be called upon to do so.  A Health Care Power is frequently coupled with a Living Will


A Living Will is not technically a will at all, but instead it is a legal document in which you make advance decisions about how you want to have your care coordinated in the event of very serious or terminal conditions, if you are unable to participate in the required decision-making.  You can pre-express your wishes for or against care choices such as feeding tubes, blood transfusions, mechanical respiration, and even CPR.  Some people want to hang on as long as possible to life, while others seek a peaceful exit if it seems to be their time.  The Living Will helps to put the power of choice back into your own hands, even when you are unable to speak your mind.


Of the two types of death taxes (state and federal), the federal tax gets more attention though far more people are affected by their own state death taxes, usually Inheritance or Estate Tax.  Federal estate tax is a percentage of your net taxable estate.  This includes all of the assets you own or control at (or near) your death, after specified deductions.  Charitable donations, marital exclusion, and the “applicable exclusion amount” or Unified Credit reduce the net taxable estate.  Due to ongoing changes in the estate tax law, the applicable exclusion amount varies yearly right now. It used to be nearly $500,000. In 2008, it was $2,000,000, so you could pass that amount without any federal estate tax.  The applicable exclusion amount increased to 3,500,000 for 2009.  The federal estate tax is repealed in 2010, but the repeal expires on December 31, 2010, after which the applicable exclusion amount goes back to $1,000,000 for 2011, unless Congress passes new legislation.  

Separate from the federal estate tax, your estate may have to pay state estate/inheritance taxes.  Pennsylvania, for example, has both.  Inheritance Taxes of between 4.5% and 15% are due based upon inheritances received, depending upon how close a relative the recipient is, while spouses are exempt.  The PA Estate Tax is a ‘pick up’ tax, designed to make sure that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue captures the maximum tax which the federal government would permit an estate to credit on its federal tax return.

Even if your estate now seems relatively small, the future brings income, capital growth, appreciation, inheritances, gifts, and all other manner of growth in your holdings. Thus it is important to regularly review your situation with us to see if adjustments in your plan are required.  

Everyone loves a gift, and to give is better than to receive.  That being said, the process of passing Gifts to your family members, charities, or others can be a useful Estate Planning tool.  Gifts done properly can fund trusts, reduce or eliminate expensive Estate Taxes, yield financial annuities back to you or to others you direct, permit control over the disposition of the family fortune you’ve built, and of course simply increase the quality of life of the recipient of your generosity.  With careful planning, gifting strategies can work on multiple levels to achieve several of these goals at once.

As you may have seen, there are a number of different ways in which proper Estate Planning can help to care for you and your family, in good times and in difficult ones.  We urge you to contact us for a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your goals, your needs, and how we may be able to assist you.  The next step is yours.