The Role of Prenuptial Agreements in Protecting Your Assets

If you are approaching a new marriage, you might be considering a prenuptial agreement. Perhaps you have discussed this with your fiance, or maybe you are conducting independent research before you broach the topic. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand the role of prenuptial agreements in asset protection. Although prenuptial agreements can help couples accomplish numerous goals, most use this strategy primarily to protect their wealth. Divorce can create some of the most serious financial consequences imaginable, and prenuptial agreements can address this concern. How exactly does a prenuptial agreement protect your assets, and should you consider one?

What Does the Word “Prenuptial” Mean?

The word “prenuptial” literally means “before marriage.” It comes from the Latin “pre” (before) and “nuptus” (marriage). Ancient Romans invented prenuptial agreements to ensure the return of the dowry provided by the bride’s father under certain conditions. If the husband committed certain acts of misconduct or abuse during the marriage, these ancient prenuptial agreements had the power to forcibly return the dowry to the father. In other words, the very first prenuptial agreements in history were created specifically to protect women. Over time, prenuptial agreements evolved to focus mainly on the protection of assets instead. 

How Do Prenuptial Agreements Protect Assets?

Prenuptial agreements protect assets by superseding the normal property division process that occurs during Colorado divorces. Without a prenuptial agreement in place, spouses must follow the equitable distribution system. This system requires courts to consider numerous, complex factors as they seek an “equitable” division of property between spouses. There are also pre-set rules that dictate which property is eligible for division and which property is excluded. Not only is this property division process time-consuming, but it can also be quite expensive. Spouses may rack up excessive legal fees as they engage in combative property division litigation, and these disputes may take years to resolve. 

With a prenuptial agreement in place, however, spouses can circumvent this entire process. A prenuptial agreement essentially takes precedence over Colorado’s property division laws. Instead of forcing spouses to engage in litigation, family courts will instead respect existing prenuptial agreements. As long as these contracts are properly drafted, family courts will simply follow their instructions like any other legally enforceable agreement. 

First of all, a prenuptial agreement saves spouses money by lowering legal fees. If the prenup is valid, a judge will approve it during a fairly quick hearing and confirm its legal enforceability. Next, spouses simply follow the instructions in the agreement with no other legal steps. This has the potential to dramatically lower your legal fees. For high-net-worth spouses with complex assets, a prenuptial agreement can easily save them tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees (or more). 

While saving legal fees is always a welcome benefit for spouses, the true advantage of a prenuptial agreement is its asset-protecting abilities. Many spouses enter marriages with significant assets, and they may fear losing these assets in the event of a divorce. These fears are well-founded, as the equitable distribution process has the potential to take away approximately half of a spouse’s wealth. 

That being said, separate assets are never divisible. In other words, most spouses get to keep all the assets they owned prior to the marriage – including real estate, businesses, investments, and so on. Inheritance and gifts are also separate, and they should never be divided during divorce. 

Although Colorado protects separate assets to a certain extent, these protections only go so far. Spouses often sell separate property to purchase new marital assets during their marriages. Once separate property becomes marital property, it is difficult to unravel these commingled assets. High-income spouses may also feel concerned about losing decades of income to their spouses. They may use this income to purchase assets, make investments, and start businesses. These hard-working individuals may feel that handing over 50% of these assets seems unfair – and their spouses often agree. 

With a prenuptial agreement, you can control how assets will be divided ahead of time. Instead of accepting that all of the assets you accumulate during marriage will be subject to equitable distribution, you can create another kind of arrangement. For example, you might choose to provide your spouse with a predetermined cash settlement instead of 50% of your assets. You might also specifically state that all of your income earned during the marriage will remain yours. 

Prenuptial agreements can be relatively simple, but they may also deal with complex assets. Entrepreneurs are often attracted to prenuptial agreements because they simplify business assets in divorce. Businesses are some of the most complex assets imaginable, and divorce may create all kinds of problematic consequences for them. This has the potential to affect not only the spouse who owns the business but also any partners, executives, and shareholders with an interest in the business. 

Prenuptial agreements can provide different kinds of protection based on the unique qualities of certain assets. For businesses, a prenuptial agreement may take into account the structure of the business, its shareholders, and the various assets held within a corporation. For investments, a prenuptial agreement may factor in the pros and cons of selling or holding shares, cryptocurrencies, or treasury bills. Prenuptial agreements are highly customizable tools that can protect assets in many different ways. 

Mediation vs. Prenuptial Agreements for Asset Protection

Although mediation may also help spouses avoid litigation, spouses still face the underlying “threat” of going to court. If mediation cannot resolve property division, spouses will have no other choice but to proceed with property division litigation. Spouses may use this threat to their advantage, stubbornly refusing to compromise because they know they will get a better deal in Colorado’s family courts. In contrast, a prenuptial agreement has the potential to offer better asset protection since it can prevent any possibility of litigation. 

Find a Qualified Prenuptial Agreement Lawyer in Loveland

Although an online article may educate you on the asset-protection abilities of a prenuptial agreement, it may be more helpful to speak directly with a prenup lawyer in Colorado. During a consultation with a prenuptial agreement attorney in Loveland, you can discuss the benefits of prenups based on your specific circumstances. Each family is unique, and prenuptial agreements can benefit different couples in different ways. To learn more, consider a consultation with NBMS Law, P.C., at your earliest convenience. We have been assisting couples with prenuptial agreements for many years. Reach out today and experience the true benefits of a prenuptial agreement. 


The Importance of Regular Estate Plan Reviews and Updates

The best estate plans in Pennsylvania are constantly evolving. Although many residents assume that the estate planning process is over once they create a Will or a Trust, they must review their circumstances on a regular basis to pursue optimal results. After all, your financial situation can change drastically within just a few months. Although there are some steps you can take to “automatically” protect these assets after creating an initial estate plan, this process is not foolproof. With regular updates, you can save your family from taxation, time-consuming litigation, and plenty of stress. Why should you update your estate plan in Pennsylvania?

Regular Estate Plan Updates Can Help Your Family Avoid Intestate Succession

One of the key reasons to update your estate plan is to avoid intestate succession. This process is probably the “worst-case scenario” for most beneficiaries. It is time-consuming, expensive, and completely unpredictable. In simple terms, intestate succession is the process that the probate court follows to distribute assets to beneficiaries without instructions left in a Will. This process is quite random, and there is no real way to predict who will receive what. Generally speaking, spouses and children of the decedent inherit assets first – potentially in a way that totally goes against what you would have wanted. 

But why might an outdated estate plan lead to this scenario? Let’s say you wrote your Last Will and Testament at a time when you held various stocks, bonds, and real estate holdings. What happens if a decade passes, and you no longer hold these assets in your portfolio? What happens if you sell your real estate holdings and put them into new stocks? What if you sold all of your stocks and moved to cryptocurrencies instead? When probate courts read your will, they will see instructions to distribute assets that no longer exist. As such, they will have no choice but to follow the rules of intestate succession when distributing the assets that do exist

How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan in Pennsylvania?

Assuming that there are no major changes in your life, you might want to review your estate plan every three to five years. A review of your estate plan is a very easy process, and it should not take very long when you work alongside a qualified estate planning attorney in Pennsylvania. The main goal is to take a close look at your financial situation to ensure that your current Will accurately reflects these economic circumstances. Your lawyer will keep a close eye out for new financial changes that require adjustments to your Will. If there are no adjustments needed, you can continue for another few years before revisiting your situation. 

What Kind of Major Life Changes Require Estate Planning Changes?

Note that you may need to review your estate plan more often if you experience certain life changes. The “three-to-five-year rule” only really applies to periods of minimal change. So, what kind of life changes might necessitate an adjustment or review of your estate plan? Here are a few examples:

Can I Avoid Constantly Updating My Estate Plan?

Yes, there are certain strategies you can employ to avoid constant updates to your will. One popular choice is combining a living trust and a pour-over will. A living trust allows you to transfer assets into a trust while you are still alive. This allows you to enjoy your assets while simultaneously setting the groundwork for streamlined inheritance after you pass. 

A pour-over will augment this strategy by ensuring that all additional assets outside of the trust are simply transferred into the trust at the time of your death. In other words, any unexpected new assets you accumulate in the future will not require updates to your estate plan. Instead, you can rely on your pour-over will to “pour” these new assets into your living trust. Aside from eliminating the need for constant updates, this strategy can also help your family avoid intestate succession for assets not specifically mentioned in your Will. 

Find a Qualified Estate Planning Lawyer in Pennsylvania

If you have been searching for an experienced estate planning lawyer in Pennsylvania, look no further than NBMS Law, P.C. Updating your estate plan should be a relatively streamlined process – but even a few hours of effort can lead to serious benefits for you and your beneficiaries. That being said, different people may need to update their estate plans in different ways. The logical approach is to discuss your unique circumstances during a consultation. From there, we can guide you toward the estate planning updates for long-term financial security. 


Medical Power of Attorney: Choosing Your Healthcare Hero

Medical power of attorney allows incapacitated patients to put their treatment in the hands of people they trust. These individuals can make important decisions on behalf of their loved ones, and giving someone medical power of attorney is a critical aspect of estate planning for many Pennsylvania residents. When it comes to medical power of attorney, the most important decision is obvious: Who should make these crucial medical decisions? 

Choosing your “healthcare hero” may seem like a daunting prospect, but this critical choice becomes easier when you consider a few key points:

Understanding the Concept of Medical Power of Attorney

Choosing the right person to receive medical power of attorney is easier when you fully understand the underlying concept. 

Unlike financial aspects of estate planning, medical power of attorney focuses entirely on health care. For many Pennsylvania residents, one of the most troubling thoughts about getting old is the loss of control. 

What happens if you become incapacitated? Can you trust doctors and other medical professionals to make decisions that you would agree with? How do you maintain control even when you’re not capable of understanding what’s going on around you? These are concerns that medical power of attorney can address. 

Incapacitation can take many forms, including:

Although the risk of incapacitation is heightened for elderly people, people may suffer incapacitation at any age. 

Even dementia and Alzheimer’s can occur at young ages. A car accident or a head injury may incapacitate young adults, and anyone can find themselves in a vegetative state if their brain is starved of oxygen for long enough. In other words, it is never too early to think about medical power of attorney. 

What exactly does medical power of attorney accomplish? When you give someone medical power of attorney, you authorize them to make health care decisions on your behalf while you are incapacitated. This lets you control your healthcare decisions in a few important ways. 

First of all, you could simply trust the person’s decision-making abilities and feel confident that they know what is best. Secondly, you could have in-depth conversations with the individual, instructing them on exactly what you want them to do in various situations. 

Who Should I Give Medical Power of Attorney to?

Now that you understand what medical power of attorney involves, it is time to decide who you would like to provide with this power. The best choice depends entirely on your situation, and no one can make this decision for you. 

Many estate planners identify family members, close friends, and loved ones. While the decision is completely up to you, there are a number of factors you should consider:

People Who CANNOT Accept Medical Power of Attorney

Finally, it is worth pointing out that some people are not allowed to accept medical power of attorney in the State of Pennsylvania. Many other states have similar regulations. In Pennsylvania, those with medical power of attorney are also called “health care agents.” State laws make it clear that a healthcare agent cannot be any of the following:

The only exception is if these individuals are related to you by blood. If your family member happens to be your attending physician, for example, they may serve as your healthcare agent. 

Choose an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents can plan effectively for the future alongside experienced estate planning attorneys. Choose NBMS Law to discuss your unique estate planning needs in more detail. Medical power of attorney is only one example of how estate planning can provide you with more control and more peace of mind about the future. Although online research provides basic information about these subjects, each family in Pennysylvania approaches estate planning with slightly different needs and priorities. To get started with a personalized estate plan, book your consultation today


Will Power: The Importance of Estate Planning

Estate planning may have more benefits than many Pennsylvania residents realize. Although most people assume that estate planning only serves to protect and pass on wealth, the trust is that this process may provide a range of other advantages. Contrary to popular opinion, estate planning is not something reserved for the ultra-wealthy, and even those with very few assets may benefit from a solid estate plan. In fact, often, this segment of the population needs an estate plan more than any other. Why is estate planning so important in Pennsylvania? What can it provide for you and your family?

The Main Reason Everyone Should Consider a Will in Pennsylvania

A Last Will and Testament is the most basic form of estate planning. For many families, this document alone is enough to achieve estate planning goals. Although a will can perform many functions, its primary purpose is to identify how assets should be distributed among beneficiaries. A will can include items that are of sentimental value and monetary value:

Why does everyone need a will in Pennsylvania? Because without one of these legal documents, a family member will pass away “intestate.” This means that their family must go through the intestate process according to the Probate Court in Pennsylvania, which follows very specific rules of succession. In most cases, spouses automatically receive the entire estate. If this is not possible for whatever reason, the estate passes to children. If there are no children or spouses, assets may then be passed to siblings, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, and so on until every living member of the family is considered. 

This process obviously robs the family of any sense of control. They must sit back and let the intestate process run its course – even when it is obvious that this is not what the deceased family member would have wanted. For example, it is possible for the estate to pass to an estranged ex-spouse whom the entire family despises. 

Wills Can Also Provide Control Over Medical Processes

According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, a living will might also state various preferences involved with medical treatment. This might include:

For example, an individual may decide that they do not want to be resuscitated if they fall in the future. By writing a living will, they can refuse this life-saving treatment and leave the world on their own terms. This might be a particularly popular option for those who have grown tired of many years of medical treatment. 

A healthcare agent is someone who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. In many cases, this is a close family member. This option allows you to have a conversation with your loved one, instructing them of your wishes in regard to certain medical treatments. Designating a health care agent may be less complicated than writing down your wishes in regards to every single health care scenario – of which there are countless. For example, you may tell your spouse that if you ever find yourself in a vegetative state, they should “pull the plug,” so to speak. 

The Pennsylvania General Assembly also allows you to write down “other specific directions,” providing plenty of options for personalized, specific instructions. You can put all of these directions directly into your will, or you may combine your will with other supporting documents, such as medical directives or powers of attorney. 

Estate Planning Can Make Life Easier for Your Family Members

Many people might not want to bother with estate planning, and this might seem like an understandable mindset at first. After all, you are certainly not going to be around to see how your carefully laid plan plays out – so why bother? The truth is that estate planning mostly benefits your family members – making their lives easier even when your own has elapsed. 

First of all, it’s important to remember that the passing of a family member can lead to untold arguments among survivors. Even seemingly worthless assets like a hunting knife or a chair can lead to all kinds of disputes. One family member might claim that you promised them they could keep the asset, while the other might argue that you would have wanted them to have it. The last thing you want to leave your family with is an endless source of bitterness – and an estate plan ensures that everyone understands your wishes. 

Secondly, it is worth mentioning that beneficiaries often incur significant tax issues when inheriting assets. One of the key purposes of estate planning is to minimize these tax burdens. This priority becomes especially important when dealing with high-value estates. Once you start dealing with millions of dollars, taxation can become quite a burden. 

For reference, inheritance tax for Pennsylvania residents stands at 4.5% for direct descendants, 12% for siblings, and 15% for everyone else. This means that your family could be left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax burdens without an effective estate plan in place. While Pennsylvania does not have an estate tax, the federal government does – and this can add even more tax burdens onto your family’s plate. To learn about strategies to avoid these taxes, contact a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney. 

Get in Touch With a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney in Pennsylvania Today

If you are ready to learn more about the importance of estate planning for yourself, do not hesitate to get in touch with NMBS Law, P.C. Over the years, we have helped numerous estate planners in Pennsylvania conceptualize, create, and implement plans that can provide for beneficiaries, reduce financial burdens, and ensure greater levels of overall control. The truth is that the benefits of estate planning depend on each specific family, as each estate planner approaches this process with unique goals and priorities. To discuss this subject in more detail, book a consultation today


Give Someone Power: The Importance of a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is an important and authoritative legal document that names a person who can make decisions and act on someone else’s behalf. The power of attorney designates a person as an attorney-in-fact, also referred to as an agent. A person (called the principal) uses the power of attorney to allow another person to make decisions regarding their real estate, business, financial, health, and other needs.

Why is a Power of Attorney Necessary?

When a person becomes incapable of or unavailable to act for themself, the person designated as the agent can take necessary action and make suitable decisions. Following are some reasons that people choose to utilize a power of attorney: 

Grantable Powers

A person can give their agent the authority to make all of their financial decisions. This can include opening and closing of accounts, paying bills, depositing checks, and transferring funds. 

A person can allow their agent to handle real estate transactions including buying, selling, and renting property. An agent can be given the authority to run a person’s business, act as their proxy, and vote at shareholder meetings. The agent can also:

Power of Attorney Types

Health Care Power of Attorney

If an agent is needed to make health decisions for a principal, a healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA) is the proper document. The HCPOA gives the agent the right to make all healthcare-related decisions.

Ordinary Power of Attorney

Financial decisions can be addressed with an ordinary power of attorney.

An ordinary power of attorney stays valid and in effect as long as the principal can still make decisions. If a person becomes incapacitated, the ordinary power of attorney can become invalid.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney–sometimes called an enduring power of attorney–stays valid and in effect even if the principal becomes incompetent. The durable power of attorney also stays valid until the principal dies.

All powers of attorney are either ordinary or durable, but they also can be described more specifically:

General Power of Attorney: This document gives a person authority to handle property and financial decisions in any matter.

Limited Power of Attorney: This document limits the authority given to another person as they act on the principal’s behalf. For example, there may be a single real estate transaction that needs to be closed but the principal is unavailable. Therefore, power of attorney to close the real estate transaction only could be granted. After the transaction is completed, the power of attorney can be revoked.

Springing Power of Attorney: This type of power of attorney “springs into effect” on a given date or if a certain circumstance occurs. For example, a power of attorney might be granted to an agent after a person becomes incapacitated.

Choosing the Agent 

Choosing the proper person is an obviously important decision, but there are also legal issues to be considered. Therefore, agents:

The power of attorney grants significant authority and it is therefore critical to carefully choose a trustworthy and capable agent. If the wrong person is designated as an agent in a durable power of attorney, for example, the principal could face bankruptcy if funds are abused or mismanaged.

The agent can be a banker, friend, attorney, or any other competent adult. A person can also designate a family member as an agent. It is very important, however, to name a reputable, capable, and trustworthy person as an agent.

Multiple Agents

Persons facing old age may want to name their children as their agents. Sometimes multiple children are designated, and in some cases, certain children may be given particular roles. One child might be the agent that manages insurance. Another child might be the agent that runs the family’s business. Designating multiple agents can cause issues if the agents disagree. Principals can require that a major decision like buying or selling a house needs two agents to agree, for example.

Safeguards

Powers-of-attorney should not merely be boilerplate documents. Principles can tailor the document to their specific needs. If one is worried about an agent’s potential handling of affairs, the power of attorney document can contain built-in safeguards that might require the agent to report to a third party like an accountant or attorney. Again, multiple agents can be designated and required to agree upon certain transactions. Remember that an agent’s legal scope is explained upon creation of the document.

Revocation

Ordinary powers of attorney can be terminated. Durable powers of attorney can also be terminated, but they remain in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Notarization

In certain states, power of attorney forms need to be notarized. Some states require the signatures of two adult witnesses. Other states require notarization and the signatures of two adult witnesses. 

Complex Process

Drafting a power-of-attorney can be a significant task. Although there are online templates available, anyone using them needs to be aware of the significance and dangers of granting another person the right to make critical life decisions on their behalf.

Get Help Today

NBMS Law P.C. is an experienced planning law firm. Anyone who needs even a simple power-of-attorney should contact a firm like NBMS Law P.C. NBMS Law P.C. has the knowledge to solve difficult estate planning issues and the compassion and ability to work with diverse groups of clients that have varied needs. Don’t waste time filling in the blanks in an online boilerplate document. Instead, contact NBMS Law P.C. today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward solving your estate planning issues. Do not wait until you are rushed or until it is too late to adequately plan and protect yourself and your family members.


Living Wills: More Than Just a Document

A living will is an entirely different document than a last will and testament. A living will is a legal document that tells healthcare providers how to handle your care should you be unable to communicate or make decisions about emergency treatment. These instructions are called advance directives.

A living will only be followed if a medical professional decides that you lack the ability to speak for yourself about life-sustaining treatment. If, for example, you do not want to be resuscitated in case of a severe stroke or heart attack and you are unable to express your wishes, a living will can guide the medical staff to follow the directives you have chosen. Without a living will, your care choices can be dictated by others.

While a traditional will provides information regarding the transfer of financial assets after you die, a living will communicates which (if any) medical treatments should be performed in order to extend your life. 

Why Would Someone Refuse Treatment That Would Extend Their Life?

Some people do not believe that life should be extended at all costs. They might feel that “their time has come,” and they may feel that death is a natural occurrence that should not be delayed or interrupted by medical procedures. Some may be so ill that they believe any attempted treatment would ultimately be futile. Some may believe that emergency resuscitation, for example, might just prolong a life already damaged by terminal disease and pain. Regardless of the reason for refusing certain treatments, a living will is the document that allows a patient’s treatment guidelines to be followed.

Treatment Types Covered in a Living Will Document

Many remember the heart-wrenching scene when National Football League Player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest. Hamlin was successfully resuscitated on the football field and was able to return to his previous activities. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was performed. There are consequences of CPR, as the chest compressions necessary to make the process work can break ribs. Sometimes, electronic defibrillators are part of the CPR process. While CPR may work well for a younger person, it can be less effective with older, chronically ill, or terminally ill adults.

Ventilator use was frequently discussed during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. A ventilator is a medical machine that forces air into the lungs of a person who cannot breathe. Intubation is the process of inserting a breathing tube down a person’s throat. This procedure can be very uncomfortable, and ventilator patients many times need to be sedated. Long-term sedation can cause muscles to atrophy and patients sometimes face a long and arduous recovery period after a ventilator has been removed.

Irregular heart rhythm is a common condition that can be treated. When a heart beats irregularly, it can lead to cardiac arrest and death. An irregularly beating heart can be shocked back into a normal rhythm with a manual electronic defibrillator. Persons can also have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This is a device that, when permanently inserted into the chest, detects an abnormal heart rhythm and automatically shocks the heart back to normal rhythm. A person with an ICD who is reaching the end stage of life may no longer need the ICD, and advance directives can explain further steps after a healthcare provider suggests that the ICD should be disabled.

If a person can no longer eat or drink, artificial hydration and nutrition can be delivered through a feeding tube. It might be inserted through the nose, or if needed for a long time period, the tube might be surgically inserted into the abdomen. While artificial nutrition and hydration can be helpful in many cases, if the natural end of life is imminent, artificial nutrition and hydration may not necessarily extend life.

Other Living Will Provisions

Some may wish to have their organs, brain, and other tissue donated to others in need or to science for study. Others may not want their bodies to be altered in any way after death. A living will can address these concerns and direct providers to follow the patient’s wishes.

Living Will Considerations

Medical science and practices can extend life, but many are concerned that an artificially extended life might not be a quality life. A person may survive a life-threatening stroke because life-saving measures were successful. If the survivor was subsequently confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and required a feeding tube, many would not consider that a proper life. While some might want to live in any state, others may want to refuse medical procedures that could leave them in a lessened state, and a living will is the proper vehicle to express and direct one’s emergency medical treatment desires.

Consult Your Team

Those receiving Medicare are offered an annual wellness visit where their physician can be consulted about end-of-life issues. If high blood pressure that can lead to a stroke is a medical issue, the patient can have a frank discussion with their physician about the possible effects of a stroke and the medical condition that can result. The doctor can explain and help the patient understand end-of-life choices that need to be included in a living will.

Consult an Estate Planning Law Firm 

Your estate planning attorney will gather all of your information and make sure that your wishes and directives are clearly and legally stated in your living will document. Some important points to cover will be:

Patients have the right to determine the type of health care they want. NBMS Law PC’s living will experts are here to help you create a living will that will accurately and legally describe your medical directives. Savvy persons understand that homemade or online fill-in forms may not be the best way to create a living will and that the services of an experienced and quality law firm like NBMS Law PC are required in order to produce a quality and accurate living will. Contact NBMS Law, P.C., and begin the living will process today.


Trust, Estate, and Probate: To Use or Not to Use?

When it comes to managing your assets and planning for the future, the topics of trust, estate, and probate often arise. These legal instruments offer individuals the opportunity to secure their assets and ensure their loved ones are taken care of after they pass away. However, deciding whether to use these tools can be a complex and personal decision. At NBMS Law P.C. in Beaver, Pennsylvania, we work with our clients to help them with the benefits and considerations of trust, estate, and probate planning, helping you make an informed choice.

Trusts: Preserving Your Legacy

A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer your assets to a trustee, who manages them for the benefit of your beneficiaries. One of the key advantages of a trust is that it provides privacy, as the terms and conditions of the trust are not a part of the public record. This can be beneficial for individuals who value confidentiality in their estate planning.

Additionally, trusts offer flexibility in managing your assets. You can specify how and when your beneficiaries receive their inheritance, ensuring that your assets are protected and used wisely. This can be particularly valuable if you have concerns about your beneficiaries’ financial maturity or if you want to provide ongoing support for specific purposes, such as education or healthcare.

Trust v. Probate 

Another advantage of a trust is that it can help you avoid the probate process. Probate is a crucial legal process that occurs following the passing of an individual, involving the administration and distribution of their assets. It plays a vital role in settling the deceased’s affairs and ensuring the rightful beneficiaries receive their share of the estate. Probate is a court-supervised procedure that validates a will and ensures the proper distribution of assets. 

It can be time-consuming and expensive, potentially delaying the transfer of assets to your beneficiaries. The probate process also involves appraisal fees, publication costs, and potential estate taxes, further impacting the overall estate value. These expenses can burden the beneficiaries and diminish the inheritance they receive. By establishing a trust, you can bypass probate and provide a more efficient and timely distribution of your assets.

Estate Planning: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Estate planning encompasses a range of legal strategies and documents designed to manage your assets and fulfill your wishes after your passing. It typically includes the creation of a will, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and other important legal instruments.

The centerpiece of estate planning is the will. A will is a legal document that outlines your instructions regarding the distribution of your assets after you die. It allows you to designate beneficiaries, specify guardians for minor children, and even express your preferences regarding your funeral arrangements. Without a will, your assets may be subject to intestacy laws, which determine how assets are distributed when there is no valid will in place. By creating a will, you retain control over the fate of your assets and can ensure they are distributed according to your wishes.

Powers of attorney and healthcare directives are crucial components of estate planning, as well. These documents appoint trusted individuals to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. By designating someone you trust, you can ensure that your affairs are managed smoothly and in accordance with your values and preferences.

Probate: The Legal Process

Probate is the legal process that validates a will, settles debts, and distributes assets to beneficiaries. While probate is often seen as a cumbersome and time-consuming process, it serves an important purpose. It provides a structured framework for resolving disputes, paying creditors, and ensuring the proper transfer of assets.

During the probate process, a court oversees the administration of the estate, ensuring that the deceased person’s wishes, as expressed in their will, are followed. The executor, named in the will or appointed by the court, is responsible for managing the estate, gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing property to beneficiaries. Although probate can take several months to complete, it provides a legal framework that helps protect the rights of all parties involved.

To Use or Not to Use?

Deciding whether to use trust, estate, or probate planning ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and goals. If you value privacy, wish to avoid probate, or desire greater control over the distribution of your assets, establishing a trust may be beneficial. On the other hand, if your estate is relatively small and you have a straightforward distribution plan, a will may be sufficient. It is important to consult with our experienced estate planning attorneys at NBMS Law P.C. to evaluate your options and determine the best course of action.

The Big Picture of Estate Planning 

Overall, it is always best to have a comprehensive estate plan to protect not only yourself, but your loved ones as well. NBMS Law P.C. in Beaver, Pennsylvania, understands this and is here to help guide you through the legal process. Some key benefits of estate planning include:

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys at NBMS Law P.C. Today

At NBMS Law P.C., we understand the intricacies of trust, estate, and probate planning in Pennsylvania. Probate is a necessary legal process that plays a vital role in administering and distributing an estate. While it has its benefits, such as protecting the deceased’s intent, probate can also be time-consuming and costly. However, by understanding non-probate assets and engaging in strategic estate planning, individuals can minimize the negative aspects of probate, avoid unnecessary expenses, and ensure a smoother transition of their assets to their loved ones. Our team of dedicated attorneys can guide you through the process, ensuring that your wishes are respected, and your assets are protected. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward securing your legacy.


Probate: The Good, the Bad, and the Non-Probate

Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone passes away, involving the administration and distribution of their assets. It plays a crucial role in settling the deceased’s affairs and transferring property to rightful beneficiaries. NBMS Law PC is here for your estate planning and probate needs in Pennsylvania. 

The Good: Protecting the Deceased’s Intent

Probate serves an important purpose by ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out as expressed in their will. It provides a legal framework for the proper distribution of assets, protecting the deceased’s intent and minimizing the risk of disputes among beneficiaries. Through probate, the court oversees the process, ensuring that the estate is administered in accordance with the law.

Upon an individual’s passing, their estate undergoes probate court proceedings. A designated personal representative assumes responsibility for identifying the estate’s assets and debts and utilizing the assets to settle any outstanding liabilities, including estate taxes. Subsequently, the remaining assets are distributed among the beneficiaries. In cases where the decedent left a will, it must be located and submitted to the probate court for validation. However, a will may be deemed invalid if it fails to meet specific criteria. The most common grounds for invalidation include the absence of the testator’s signature and date, conducted in the presence of two witnesses. Furthermore, if the copy submitted to the court is not the original or the most recent version, the will may be invalidated. Additionally, the testator must have been at least 16 years old at the time of creating the will. Engaging the services of NBMS Law PC when preparing a will can help ensure its validity and enforceability, preventing potential technicalities from rendering it invalid or unenforceable.

Interested parties also hold the right to challenge a will if they suspect it was produced under undue influence. If a will is deemed invalid or unenforceable for any reason, or if no will is located or believed to exist, the probate court applies intestate succession laws to determine the distribution of the testator’s assets. The specifics of intestate succession statutes may differ by state but generally prioritize the spouse and children of the decedent. In their absence, the testator’s parents or siblings may inherit. To ensure assets are distributed according to your preferences, it is crucial to create a valid will.

Probate provides a level of transparency and accountability, as it requires an inventory of assets, debts, and liabilities to be submitted to the court. This helps protect beneficiaries from potential mismanagement or fraud by the executor or personal representative.

The Bad: Time and Cost

One of the downsides of probate is the time it takes to complete the process. Probate can be lengthy, often lasting several months or even years, depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges that may arise. During this time, beneficiaries may experience delays in receiving their inheritance.

Moreover, probate can be costly. Legal fees, court costs, and executor’s fees can significantly deplete the estate’s value. The probate process also involves appraisal fees, publication costs, and potential estate taxes, further impacting the overall estate value. These expenses can be a burden on the beneficiaries and reduce the inheritance they receive.

The Non-Probate Assets: Avoiding Probate

While many assets go through probate, some types of property can bypass the process and pass directly to beneficiaries. These assets are known as non-probate assets and include the following:

Work with our experienced trust, estate, and probate attorneys at Pennsylvania’s NBMS Law to understand which assets can be designated as non-probate and how to structure your estate plan accordingly.

The Benefits of Estate Planning

One effective way to minimize the negative aspects of probate is through thoughtful estate planning. Estate planning involves the strategic organization and distribution of assets during one’s lifetime and after death. Some key benefits of estate planning include:

NBMS Law PC’s Estate Planning Attorneys are Here for You 

Probate is a necessary legal process that plays a vital role in administering and distributing an estate. While it has its benefits, such as protecting the deceased’s intent, probate can also be time-consuming and costly. However, by understanding non-probate assets and engaging in strategic estate planning, individuals can minimize the negative aspects of probate, avoid unnecessary expenses, and ensure a smoother transition of their assets to their loved ones.

If you need assistance with estate planning or probate matters in Pennsylvania, contact NBMS Law PC today. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys can guide you through the complexities of the probate process and help you develop an effective estate plan tailored to your unique needs and goals.