December 10th, 2014

What Happens If I … Do I Need Estate Planning?” The Importance of Proper Estate Planning and How to Protect Your Financial Security

Estate planning involves much more than passing your assets at death. Estate planning also allows you to control your medical decisions and your assets during your lifetime. With proper planning you can take control both during your lifetime and after your death.

“What happens if I am unable to handle my finances by myself?”   Should you suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or some other mental or physical disability in the future, you may not be able to handle your own finances. Or you just might find it easier for someone to pay your bills for you. Without proper estate planning, it could be a long expensive legal process of having a guardian appointed to make decisions for you. This would involve a court hearing and a doctor testifying that you are legally incapacitated. The Court would determine who the guardian should be – not you. A financial power of attorney avoids the costly and lengthy court proceeding. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a trusted family member or friend as your agent to handle your finances and to make other important decisions for you during your lifetime if you are unable to do so.

“What happens if I am unable to make medical decisions for myself?”  You have the right to accept or refuse medical or surgical treatment. However, if you cannot make those decisions due to the onset of a physical or mental condition, a hospital will generally look to your family for guidance about your care. When family members are not available or cannot agree, the hospital may ask the courts to appoint a person (a guardian) who will make decisions for you. However, your family members or guardian may not know your wishes as to accepting or refusing medical treatment. An advanced health care directive or health care power of attorney gives you a voice in decisions about your medical care and who should make those decisions for you when you are unable to do so.

“What happens if I die without a Will?” If you die without a Will, Pennsylvania Law will determine who inherits your estate. This may have unintended consequences. Pennsylvania Law provides that if you die without a Will and you have a spouse and children, your spouse will only get the first $30,000 and one half of the remainder of your estate. The rest will be split equally between your children. If you have children from a previous marriage, your spouse would only get one half of your estate. Pennsylvania Law is contrary to the wishes of many people. Proper estate planning including a Will allows you to determine who is to receive your assets when you pass and in the proper amounts.

Protecting and maintaining the financial security of your family is our goal. Gross McGinley’s Wills, Trusts & Estates Group has extensive experience in estate planning and the administration of estates and trusts.  Our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys design a customized estate plan to fit your particular financial and familial situation including young families at the start of their journey, blended families, business owners, and professionals.  If you would like to further discuss Durable Powers of Attorney and the personal liabilities you or a loved one may be facing or any other estate planning matter, please contact us today.

Robert A. Alpert focuses his practice in the related areas corporate law, real estate law, commercial litigation, and estate planning and administration. Active member of the Wills, Trusts & Estates Group at Gross McGinley, Robert helps families plan for the future with wills, powers of attorney, living wills, advanced health care directives, estate planning, tax planning, trusts, family business transfers, and special and supplemental needs trusts.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.