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Estates - Trusts

Civil and Criminal Litigation Attorneys

Our Objective is to Add Value to Your Interests and to Your Life Through Vigorous Advocacy

 
Introduction

Pennsylvania Estates and Trusts

We Produce Results and Answer Questions for Our Clients in the Following Manner: 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN SOMEONE DIES? How do you set up or open an estate? Are you an estate personal representative? What are the duties of an executor or an administrator? Did the deceased have a will? Do you know what facts you will need to provide to your county Register of Wills? How do you move everything owned by the deceased to the estate of the deceased? How do you treat the creditors of the deceased? These questions usually present themselves at the worst possible moment, at the death of someone you care about. We produce results for our clients by taking care of all aspects of the estate as an estate attorney. 

WRITING YOUR WILL: The point of discussing a will or trust is to determine who looks after critical responsibilities like your children, your home or your business. We produce results for our clients by conducting a thorough interview and listening carefully. 

PLANNING YOUR ESTATE: Imagine the sum and total of everything you earned, everything you spent; imagine the balance of what you gave and received as gifts. This figure is as difficult to predict as the precise length of your days. Nevertheless, every effort must be made to produce a plan that will protect your estate and your life's work from waste, from delay in providing for loved ones, and a plan that will shelter your assets from unnecessary taxation. We produce results for our clients by a thorough examination and appreciation of your wishes, your estate and the applicable property, estate and tax laws. 

CREATING YOUR OWN TRUST: Trusts can be created for many different purposes. A trust can be created by your will and thus hold property after you die for the benefit of your beneficiaries. A trust can be created now to shield your assets from future creditors. A trust can be the recipient of your charitable gifts and thus can produce tax benefits.

 
 
Trust Description

The simplest description of a trust is a description of its parts.

A trust itself can be formal almost like a separate legal entity like a corporation, it can have its own tax ID number and its own name. However, the creation of a trust can simply be an act such as giving a parent money for a child’s education.

The settlor is the one who contributes money, property or something else of value to the trust. The beneficiary is the one who receives money, property or benefits from the trust or in some manner benefits by the trust holding or growing assets.

The trustee is in charge of the trust and acts as the manager, steward or owner of the trust assets. However, the trustee is bound to manage the assets of a trust in the way the settlor set forth in the trust documents and instructions.

In Jimenez v. Lee 274 Ore. 457 (1976), it was held that a grandmother created a trust when she purchased a $1,000 savings bond in joint name of the father Lee, and/or the child Jimenez specifically for the child’s educational needs. Even though there was evidence that that the father had used the funds for the child’s benefit, the court determined that the father was liable for all non-educational expenditures.

 
 
Who was the first to Die?

Many have read about the incident in 1982, when Tylenol Capsules were sabotaged and poisoned with cyanide.

In Janus v. Tarasewicz, 482 N.E. 2d 418 (1985), husband and wife, Stanley and Theresa Janus, accidentally ingested poisoned Tylenol capsules. Stanley died intestate on 9/29/82 and Theresa died on 10/1/82; neither individual had written a will. Based on the law of intestacy which controlled at that time, Stanley’s insurance proceeds passed to Theresa and then passed to Theresa’s heir, her father, Tarasewicz. Stanley’s family was awarded none of these proceeds.

 
 
Thomas Jefferson on Wills

To Illustrate The Importance of a Will:

Consider the following quotation from page 1 of the Dukeminier, Johanson case law book entitled Wills, Trusts and Estates, Sixth Edition, Aspen Publishers, Inc. 2000: “THOMAS JEFFERSON, 7 JEFFERSON’S WORKS 454 (Monticello ed. 1904):

“The Earth belongs in usufrucht[*] to the living; the dead may have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when he himself ceases to be, and reverts to society.” (Letter to James Madison dated Sept. 6, 1789)” * –noun Roman and Civil Law. Jefferson seems to be saying at least a couple of things here. First, our society places importance on the most efficient use of property. With death, our resources are not to be abandoned. On the contrary, we need to avail society, avail the living of these resources. Another point to be taken from this passage is that without an indication of the desire or “will” of the deceased, with nothing more than merely the death of the deceased, the portion occupied by the deceased “reverts to society.” This is another good argument for carefully structuring a will. To be sure, without knowing more about the deceased and his obligations while alive, it wouldn’t properly or fairly serve society to just return (escheat) property to the state in intestacy (death without the presence of a will). The laws generally governing intestacy provide in fact that without the creation of a will or a trust, your property will all likely pass to your surviving spouse and to your children. This is because society wants us to take care of our own, rather than creating potential wards of the state.