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Pennsylvania Law Blog

Reasons for a trust

Many people in Pennsylvania may not consider creating a trust when developing an estate plan. However, the inclusion of a trust can be very beneficial.

A trust is a legal agreement between a settlor and a trustee. For estate planning purposes, the trustee agrees to manage, safeguard and receive the assets that are provided by the settlor. The trustee also accepts the duties of administering the assets in accordance with the trust's directions and to distribute the income and principal of the trust, as dictated by the trust, for the trust's beneficiaries.

Alternative dispute resolution for real estate disputes

Sometimes, even the most straightforward real estate transactions can result in disputes that require legal action. The process of buying and selling real estate is not always strictly business. Homeowners are notoriously sentimental about their properties, and often feel that their personal investment in their homes leads to a higher property value. It's important for both parties to understand which resolution methods are most effective for their particular situation.

 

Why trusts may be better than wills for some estate plans

People in Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia may want to consider using a trust instead of a will in their estate planning. This has been the recommendation of the AARP since 1991. There can be a number of advantages to using a trust over a will.

Many people like trusts because unlike wills, they are private documents. Assets in a trust do not have to pass through the probate process, and this might reduce the likelihood of legal challenges. Assets that have been in an irrevocable Medicaid Asset Protection Trust for at least five years are protected from nursing home costs. Trusts can also be created that protect assets in case a person gets a divorce or remarries. With an inheritance trust, assets left to children will then pass on to their children instead of to a spouse. Trusts can also be useful in blended families. A trust can ensure that a person's assets pass to children instead of a spouse, who may remarry and give those assets to a new family.

How negligence is proved in civil lawsuits

When car accident victims in Pennsylvania file lawsuits against the motorists who injured them, their litigation is usually based on allegations of negligence. To prove the civil law tort of negligence, plaintiffs must convince a jury that the defendant was required to take reasonable care and failed to meet this legal duty. They must also be able to establish that their harm was suffered as a direct consequence of the defendant's negligent actions.

Every state requires drivers to remain vigilant at all times and obey motor vehicle traffic laws, so establishing that a duty of care existed is not usually a challenge in car accident lawsuits. Proving that motorists failed to meet this duty is also fairly straightforward when the drivers who caused accidents broke the law. Personal injury attorneys generally study police reports when representing car accident victims as they may reveal that drivers were intoxicated when they crashed or committed a moving violation in the moments before a collision.

Fraud and buying homes

Pennsylvania residents who are looking to purchase a home may be interested to learn that the FBI reported that there was $150 million lost due to real estate fraud in 2018, with 11,000 people in the United States becoming victims of scams. The majority of the loss occurred because an email was infiltrated or too much data was publicly available, giving scammers the opportunity to take advantage of their victims during a stressful and expensive situation in their lives.

Attackers are able to gain valuable information from the compromised emails of real estate agents, attorneys and title agents. This information can include important details regarding an imminent home transaction. The information they can gain can be used to generate similar-looking emails that are used to engage the prospective homebuyer. With these communications, the attackers are able to get the homebuyer to use fraudulent wiring information that allows the attackers to steal down payments and closing costs.

What to do before closing on a property

Prior to closing on a new home in Pennsylvania, it's a good idea to have the property inspected by a professional. This provides an opportunity to spot any problems before a buyer becomes the official owner. While there may be a warranty on a new home, many items could be excluded from it. Therefore, it's important to make sure that those items are in good condition before closing.

It's also a good idea to learn more about any statutes of limitation that may exist on a home warranty or other guarantee. Knowing the statute of limitations can be important because a defect may not become apparent for many years.

How to select the right trustee

Trusts are often viewed as a tax planning tool and, if there is a family business, they can protect family assets from creditors. Those are two good reasons to establish trusts, but they can accomplish many things, including managing and preserving wealth for generations.

With such an important objective, selecting the right trustee is critical. Given that a grantor - the person creating the trust - wants someone they trust to serve as the trustee, a spouse or child may seem like the obvious choice. However, this can create numerous complications. For starters, a spouse who is about the same age as an elderly grantor may be susceptible to the same physical and mental health issues as the grantor.

Climate change could affect real estate values

The commercial real estate market in Philadelphia can be affected by a range of external and social factors. Experts note that climate change could be among these factors. Therefore, investors should consider preparing for changes in order to preserve profitability in the sector. Larger real estate companies are calculating climate risk measurements and how they may affect the long-term property values of different types of property. Of course, climate change is not just linked to global warming; it could have an array of impacts, including increased likelihood of extreme weather like hurricanes or rising sea levels that could make waterfront property more dangerous.

While experts warn that changes could be damaging to commercial real estate property values, they also say that investors who paid attention to the issue could outperform the market as a whole. Of course, weighing risk and opportunity is part of calculating any real estate investment. Climate change is simply introducing another issue on the risk side of the balance sheet for any real estate project.

What happens when a commercial lease is terminated early?

There are few certainties in business. Consolidation and dissolution are baked into the risk of entrepreneurship. Often, a business will close its doors and must decide what steps to take regarding a lease agreement. Even in today's virtual world, renting space remains one of the biggest expenses for many businesses.

If a company closes its doors while a long-term lease is in place, the tenant is liable for the remaining portion of the contract unless the lease agreement states otherwise. Pennsylvania law does not require landlords to mitigate losses by using commercially reasonable efforts to look for a new tenant. It is wise for renters to include such a clause when entering into a lease agreement.

Do-it-yourself estate planning documents may cause issues

Estate planning offers several wealth protection and asset distribution options to Pennsylvania residents. That's why many people download estate planning documents from do-it-yourself websites. Although DIY legal websites cost less money, oversights can cause problems. Many individuals do not even know if their estate plans contain errors. Plus, people who take advantage of using online services need to pay more money to consult with an attorney.

One benefit derived from using a DIY website is that the consumer can download affordable documents in a short amount of time. Even simple estate planning documents are often better than having no valid will or plan in force. At the least, an estate plan purchased via an online website may offer consumers basic legal forms, including a will and a power of attorney document. An estate plan purchased via an online service can cost a few hundred dollars for a complete plan or under $100 for a will.

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