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Berks County Estate Planning Services
Giving Pennsylvania Clients the Tools to Plan for Their Futures
Families face many questions after a loved one passes away, many of which can be difficult and uncomfortable to address.
Some of these questions may include the following:
- What should be done about the deceased’s bills and debts?
- What will happen to their home and other property?
- If they have a great deal of assets, how will they be distributed?
- Will the rest of the family agree with how it is done?
With our comprehensive estate planning services, you can spare your loved ones from answering these questions on their own. An estate plan prepares your assets for the future and can ensure your final wishes are honored when you pass away.
At Dorko Wealth & Estate Planning, attorney Jeffrey F. Dorko understands that this can be a difficult topic to approach. As an estate planning lawyer in Wyomissing, Jeff is here to make the process as clear and simple as possible. He has over 30 years of experience helping people prepare plans that protect their loved ones’ futures.
Our team can assess the scope of your estate and your personal goals before advising on what steps you should take to protect you and your family.
Estate Planning Services We Offer
Attorney Jeff Dorko can assist you with many areas of estate planning that can achieve your goals. We can assess your situation and recommend which steps you should consider taking to safeguard you and your loved ones’ futures.
Dorko Wealth & Estate Planning can help you explore:
- Drafting Wills - Your will is the cornerstone of your estate plan. We can help you create a will that is clear, valid, and protective.
- Living Trusts - For powerful asset protection and the potential to avoid the probate process, look no further than a living trust.
- Special Needs Trusts -This specialized category of trusts is designed specifically to meet the financial and practical needs of a loved one with special needs. Placing assets in a special needs trust can ensure your loved one is taken care of once you are gone while also protecting their eligibility for crucial government benefits.
- Living Wills - Also known as an advanced healthcare directive, this is a legal document that specifies your personal choices for end-of-life care should you become unable to communicate. This can be critical in situations where you are incapacitated as a result of an injury or serious illness.
- Healthcare Powers of Attorney - Often working in concert with a living will, this enables you to designate a "Healthcare Agent" with authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to advocate for yourself.
- Financial Powers of Attorney - This allows you to name a trusted individual to manage your financial and/or business affairs should you become incapacitated. You can define the scope of the individual’s abilities, ranging from the ability to keep up with basic bills and payments all the way to making decisions stemming from your stake in a business.
- Estate Administration: Manage the efficient administration of your estate, handling legal procedures and responsibilities.
- Gifts & Taxes: Provide expertise in structuring gifts to minimize tax implications, allowing you to make thoughtful and impactful financial gifts.
Why You Need a Will in Pennsylvania
A last will and testament, or will, is a document that allows you to make important decisions that go into effect after you pass away. These decisions are often related to your personal property and guardianship of minor children or special needs adults in your care.
Even if you place a majority of your property in a living trust (discussed below) to avoid probate, you should have a will. This will allow you to account for any details or property that your trust cannot cover.
A properly formalized will in Pennsylvania allows you to:
- Name beneficiaries to your property
- Name a guardian for your minor children or special needs adults in your care
- Appoint an executor to manage the contents of your will and the probate process
Making a Valid Will
In order for a will to be considered valid, you will need to have it properly formalized. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not recognize nuncupative wills (those dictated orally) or holographic wills (those entirely handwritten but lacking witness signatures).
To be considered valid and “self-proving,” a will in Pennsylvania must be:
- Composed by a legal adult (18 years of age or older) who is of sound mind
- Written or typed
- Signed and dated by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, with the testator declaring the document is their will and that they presently of sound mind
- Signed and dated by the two witnesses
A notary is not necessarily required in Pennsylvania as long as the other requirements are met.
You should select your witnesses carefully. Once you pass away, the witnesses may be called upon by the probate court to attest to the legitimacy of your will, especially if an heir disputes its validity. Should the court be unable to reach one or more of your witnesses, your will could be ruled invalid.
What Happens When You Pass Away Without a Will in Pennsylvania
Should you pass away without a valid will in place, your estate will be subject to Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Because you will not have named an executor, one of your surviving immediate family members will be forced to step up and serve as your administrator. A great deal of your estate will likely become “intestate property” when you die without a will. This means these assets will be divided in accordance with state law.
The following assets are shielded from intestacy:
- Those placed in a living trust
- Jointly owned property
- Life insurance benefits
- Certain financial accounts with payable-on-death clauses
Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws favor distribution of assets amongst immediate family members. In other words, your property will only be distributed among your spouse, children, siblings, or parents. Because there is no legally valid document to confirm your wishes, the state will ignore any preferences you may have had and default to the most immediately available family members.
Chances are you would not choose to divide your property as intestacy laws mandate. This is why it’s crucial you take the time to formulate and formalize a valid will. Our Berks County estate planning attorney, Jeffrey Dorko, can help assess the role a will should play as part of your larger estate plan, including how it should coordinate with a living trust and other documents.
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER A LIVING TRUST
Like a will, a living trust is a financial document that allows you to decide what happens to your assets after you pass away. Unlike a will, property placed in a living trust can avoid probate. This provides several benefits, including privacy – items in probate are a matter of public record – and avoiding certain taxes.
Living trusts are also flexible and can be customized to suit your needs and goals. Funds can be released to beneficiaries in timed installments, or when certain conditions are met – such as when a minor child becomes a legal adult.
WE CAN HELP YOU PLAN FOR YOUR FUTURE
Although it can be difficult to approach estate planning at first, taking proactive steps to safeguard your assets will give you and your family the peace of mind you deserve. Attorney Jeff Dorko and our team at Dorko Wealth & Estate Planning can help you prepare for life’s eventualities through proactive and innovative legal solutions.
You should never delay in taking steps to form an estate plan. We can work with you to define your long-term goals, identify any potential vulnerabilities in your existing planning, and help avoid common estate planning pitfalls. Attorney Jeff Dorko understands both the pragmatic and emotional importance of an estate plan. He makes sure you understand the extent and implications of your legal options as you approach your plan.
Contact Our Berks County Estate Planning Lawyers
Secure your family's future and protect your legacy with the assistance of our dedicated Berks County Estate Planning Lawyer. Schedule a consultation with Dorko Wealth & Estate Planning today to embark on the journey of creating a comprehensive estate plan that provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
Dorko Wealth & Estate Planning is your trusted partner for comprehensive and personalized estate planning services in Berks County. We understand that planning for the future involves careful consideration of your assets, family, and individual wishes. Our experienced Berks County estate planning ;awyer is committed to providing expert guidance and tailored solutions to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning with confidence and peace of mind.
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