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Secure Your Future with Keystone Elder Law
Have you been named as the personal representative of a recently deceased family member or friend’s will? Maybe you are the successor trustee of their trust. In either case, you may be completely unprepared for the responsibilities of administering your loved one’s affairs.
Keystone Elder Law, P.C., is here to help. We are qualified Shiremanstown estate and trust administration attorneys who can guide you through the ins and outs of Pennsylvania’s probate laws. We can assist you in carrying out your new responsibilities and help ensure your success. We know that this is a difficult and emotional time for you. And so we will make every effort to shoulder the legal burden of dealing with the trust and estate administration process.
Trusts and Probate Estates Are Not the Same Thing
A common question we get is, “How are trusts different from estates?” They are actually two distinct legal concepts. Although there are many situations where the same person is tasked with overseeing both a trust and an estate, they are separate roles subject to different legal requirements.
An estate–known as a probate estate–is a legal entity created after a person’s death to administer any property they own in their sole name. In many cases, a person may have owned or controlled a substantial amount of property during their lifetime yet left little or no probate estate. This is because the probate estate does not include any of the following:
- real property held jointly with a spouse or under a joint tenancy with survivorship rights;
- assets with a “payable on death” beneficiary, such as a retirement account;
- assets belonging to a living trust.
If the deceased left a will, then its terms will govern how the probate estate runs, including who serves as personal representative and who receives any assets that remain after the estate’s debts and expenses are paid. In the absence of a valid will, Pennsylvania intestacy law governs these matters. So even if there is no will, there can still be a probate estate.
A trust, in contrast, is something that the deceased individual created during their lifetime. A “living trust” is commonly used in Pennsylvania as legal means of bypassing probate. The successor trustee named in the trust documents assumes control of the trust assets after the original grantor’s death. In many cases, the grantor also leaves a will that “pours over” any probate estate assets that may exist to the trust, thereby ensuring everything is under the ultimate control of the successor trustee. And even when there is no living trust, the will may direct the personal representative to create one or more “testamentary trusts” to hold and administer specific assets for a period of time.
Contact Keystone Elder Law, P.C., Today
Some trusts and estates require little direct administration. Others are more complex. Regardless of your situation, however, it is in your best interest as a personal representative or trustee to work with experienced counsel. If you need to speak with a skilled Shiremanstown estate and trust administration attorney, contact Keystone Elder Law, P.C., today to schedule a consultation.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney can be used to give another person the right to sell a car, home, or other property in the place of the maker of the Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney might be used to allow another person to sign a contract for the maker of the Power of Attorney (the person who makes a power of attorney is called the “principal”). It can be used to give another person the authority to make health care decisions, do financial transactions, or sign legal documents that the principal cannot do for one reason or another. With few exceptions, Powers of Attorney can give others the right to do any legal acts that the makers of the Powers of Attorney could do them themselves. A General Power of Attorney gives the “power of attorney Agent” or simply “Agent” (the legal name of the person who is authorized to act for the principal) very broad powers to do almost every legal act that the principal can do. When Elder Law Attorneys draft general Powers of Attorney, they still list the types of things the Agent can do but these powers are very broad. People often do general Powers of Attorney to plan ahead for the day when they may not be able to take care of things themselves. By doing the General Power of Attorney, they designate someone who can do these things for them.
Normal Powers of Attorney terminate if and when the principal becomes incompetent. Yet many people do Powers of Attorney for the sole purpose of designating someone else to act for them if they cannot act for themselves. It is precisely when persons can no longer do for themselves that a Power of Attorney is most valuable. To remedy this inconsistency, the law created a Durable Power of Attorney that remains effective even if a person becomes incompetent. The only thing that distinguishes a Durable Power of Attorney from a regular Power of Attorney is special wording that states that the power survives the principal’s incapacity. Even a Durable Power of Attorney, however, may be terminated under certain circumstances if court proceedings are filed. Most Powers of Attorney done today are durable.
Yes. At the time the Power of Attorney is signed, the principal must be capable of understanding the document. Although a Power of Attorney is still valid if and when a person becomes incompetent, the principal must understand what he or she is signing at the moment of execution. That means a person can be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease or be otherwise incompetent sometimes but as long as they have a lucid moment and are competent at the moment they sign the Power of Attorney, it is valid even if they do not remember signing it at a later date. At the time it is signed, the principal must know what the Power of Attorney does, whom they are giving the Power of Attorney to, and what property may be affected by the Power of Attorney.
Any competent person eighteen years of age and older can serve as an agent. Certain financial institutions can also serve. There is no course of education that agent must complete or any test that Agent must pass. Because a Power of Attorney is such a potentially powerful document, agents should be chosen for reliability and trustworthiness. In the wrong hands, a Power of Attorney can be a license to steal. It can be a big responsibility to serve as an agent.
Medicare is health insurance and covers medical services such as physician appointments, therapy, blood tests, x rays, medical procedures and hospitalization. Medicare will sometime pay for rehabilitation in a long-term care facility for a period of 20 to 100 days, but not longer. In long-term care, Medicaid covers the cost of ongoing support services for daily functioning, such as room and board in a nursing home.
Medicaid is a federal program that is overseen by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In Pennsylvania, Medicaid is called Medical Assistance and is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS).
In Pennsylvania, Medicaid funds are not available to pay for assisted living or personal care.
For Medicaid to pay for care in a nursing home, an individual recipient must be determined to need a nursing home level of care by a physician and the local Office of Aging. An individual whose income is not greater than three times the poverty level may keep up to $8,000 of total resources, but may otherwise keep only $2,400. The cash value of life insurance counts as a resource, but one car and a residential home does not count as a resource.
Empowering Clients with Holistic Planning at
Keystone Elder Law
At Keystone Elder Law, we believe that the physical, social, legal, and financial considerations of our clients all intertwine. We utilize an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate each area, which allows for the creation of a plan that addresses the concerns of the individual as a whole as well as the family. To this end, our model of practice includes a Care Coordinator (usually a nurse or social worker), whose expertise complements our team of attorneys.
When the road of life is smooth, decisions about legal and financial matters are easy to push aside for “a rainy day.” Planning ahead, however, will allow for more options as you view the map of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Don’t let a crisis limit your choices or derail your plans.(717) 697-3223