For people in Philadelphia with significant wealth, the rising estate tax exemption that entered into law with the 2017 tax reform may come as a welcome relief. Many people want to plan their estate to pass as much of their property as possible to their beneficiaries and future generations without losing significant amounts to estate taxation. As of 2020, the individual exemption from estate taxes has reached $11.58 million with increases indexed to inflation, and married couples have double that amount. The exemption was more than doubled from approximately $5 million per person with the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2018.
Some Pennsylvania residents may be unaware of the different types of issues that estate planning may address. When people think about making an estate plan, they may think only of a simple will, or they may think that it is a matter that they should put off until retirement age. However, there are many options that can benefit people of any age and for different reasons. Any adult can benefit, for example, from creating durable powers of attorney for health care and finances. Few people anticipate an incapacitating accident or injury, but these documents can be of major assistance in case of just such an emergency.
Philadelphia residents who have been named as trustee in a parent's will may wonder what their responsibilities entail. The successor trustee's powers and authority vary slightly from state to state. Though most trustees don't assume their authority until the settlor has passed away, severe disability may necessitate a trustee taking their position while the settlor is still alive.
When people in Pennsylvania pass away, they often leave a will behind to determine how their assets will be disbursed. In some cases, people may die without a will. In many instances, the probate court system is essential to the distribution of that person's property to heirs. In addition, there are some situations in which people can avoid probate and transfer their property directly. While many aim to avoid probate as much as possible, it can be important to make a plan to make this a reality.
Some Pennsylvania residents may feel that once they have created an estate plan, they do not have to think about it any more, but this is not the case. Estate plans need to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they remain current. It can be easy to procrastinate and assume that there is always time, but this may not be the case. The film director John Singleton, who died suddenly of a stroke at 51, is a case in point.
The idea of dying is not something that most Pennsylvania residents like to consider. However, not making plans for what will happen after a person's death could have serious consequences. This is especially true for parents, considering the fact that if a parent does not name who they would like their children's guardian to be, the children could be placed in foster care. Clearly laying out who will receive specific assets can prevent a lot of conflict.
When people in Pennsylvania plan for the future, it can be important to think about beneficiary designations as well as traditional options like writing a will. Once people have written a will or planned a trust, they may need to check to make sure their beneficiary designations are up to date and reflect their overall plans for their estate. Many types of accounts and assets do not pass through probate but are transferred on death through the naming of a beneficiary. The most well-known of these are life insurance policies, but retirement accounts, investment funds and even regular bank accounts may transfer in the same way.
Some people in Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia who are creating an estate plan might want to consider using a life insurance policy or a trust as part of that plan. There are a number of advantages of using the two in combination. This would involve setting up the trust as the beneficiary of the life insurance policy.
Incorporating the needs of dogs or other companion animals in an estate plan would have raised eyebrows just a few years ago. However, pet provisions in wills and pet trusts are commonplace in Pennsylvania and around the country today. A pet of some kind can be found in two out of three American homes, and many of their owners take great comfort in knowing that their animals will be taken care of should something happen to them. However, including pets in a will may not be the wisest way to accomplish this as the probate process is lengthy and pets could languish in a shelter for several months as it runs its course.
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.