Estate Planning in Pennsylvania—An Overview
Black and Davison
The Things You Need to Address in an Effective Estate Plan
If you haven’t given any thought to what will happen to your property, you’re not alone. Estimates indicate that less than half of Americans have any kind of estate plan in place. It’s a precarious position to be in, though, even if you don’t have a substantial estate. If you own any property that carries documents of title, such as a house or a car, your survivors could be in for a long and protracted process to transfer the property.
What You Need in an Effective Estate Plan
To fully protect your estate, as well as your loved one, you need:
- A will or a trust—With a will, your property will pass upon your death according to specific instructions in the document. Property passed through a will must go through the probate process, where the court will ensure that your instructions are followed. With a trust, you can transfer your property into a separate legal entity (the trust) during your lifetime. Because you no longer own the property, it doesn’t have to go through probate after your death.
There are ways, however, of transferring property without a will or trust. For example, you can re-title certain assets, so that you hold them jointly. Upon your death, title will automatically pass to all other joint owners.
- A power of attorney—A power of attorney actually conveys power while you are still alive, naming a person or entity to manage your affairs if you lack the capacity. You can grant limited powers or powers to manage all affairs.
- A health care power of attorney—This document names a person who will have the power to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so.
- A living will—The living will identifies types of medical treatment that you do or do not want to have, should you be unable to make the decision yourself.