What You Need to Know About Living Wills and Trusts

September 7, 2017 / 8:00 pm

If you reach the point where you are unable to make decisions regarding your medical care due to advanced age, an accident or an illness, a living will, trust and durable health care power of attorney will prove essential.

The failure to take advantage of these legal tools will jeopardize your assets as well as your care. The last thing you need is for an estranged family member, physician or even a judge to make decisions about your health and wealth.

How to Protect Your Wealth

A trust is a legal arrangement in which an individual, known as a trustee, is given legal title to another’s property. A living trust is a trust one creates when alive as opposed to one that is made upon death according to the specifications of his or her will.

It makes sense to ally with an attorney to prepare a bulletproof living trust so your family is not burdened with the expense and slow-moving nature of proceedings in probate court following your death. Furthermore, Pennsylvania does not make use of the Uniform Probate Code that simplifies probate so a living trust will help avoid the state’s overly-complicated probate process.

The Importance of a Will in the State of Pennsylvania

Even if you team up with an attorney to create a rock-solid living trust, you will still need a will. Your will serves as a safety valve for property that is not included in your trust for whatever reason. As an example, if you purchase new property in the months or weeks leading up to your death but do not implement it in your trust prior to passing, this newly acquired property will not pass under the trust document’s terms.

The will names the individual(s) to inherit the property in question if it has not been left to a specific individual or entity as outlined in your trust. Furthermore, the lack of a will causes property that is not transferred by the living trust or another method such as joint tenancy to be given to your closest relative as dictated by Pennsylvania state law.

This is the type of unjust and complicated situation you must avoid at all costs. The last thing you want to happen upon your death is to create strife within your family due to the lack of a detailed and updated will that transfers property in a clear manner.

What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

Unlike a standard will, a living will lets your loved ones know what kind of medical care you want – or don’t want – if an illness or injury leaves you unable to communicate.

While the living will doesn’t name someone who make decisions on your behalf – that’s what a health care power of attorney does – it can address your wishes regarding certain medical scenarios that might come up.

For example, a living will can outline your choices for being put on life support, the type of pain medications you’ll allow, and whether you’d want to spend your last days at home or in a hospital.

The Issue of Estate Tax

Allying with a proven attorney to write a living trust also has the potential to reduce your estate tax. Though a simple living trust that avoids the probate process won’t reduce the federal estate tax burden, a more complicated version might provide tax relief.

As an example, an AB trust can decrease the federal estate tax cost for those who own assets of considerable value. This style of trust transfers assets from the deceased individual to the surviving spouse.

Penglase & Benson is on Your Side

Our attorneys are here to preserve your wealth with a living will, trust, durable health care power of attorney and other legal tools. We know exactly how to protect your assets, reduce your tax exposure and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve.

Reach out to us today by dialing 215-348-4416 to schedule an appointment with our attorneys. You can also fill out our online contact form and we will be in contact with you as soon as possible.