Estate Planning For The Rich And The Not So Rich

There are very few of us that have the wealth of Gates or Buffet, so our estate planning will probably be vastly different from theirs. In fact Bill Gates is giving most of his fortune away to charity. However, just because you may not have amassed the kind of fortune these two will leave behind, doesn’t mean that your estate planning is less important or less complicated or that you aren’t worth being scammed.

A few estate planning terms you should be familiar with:

  • Probate: When an executor files a will with the Register of Wills at the courthouse to make sure it is valid. All wills must be probated.
  • Trust: An agreement to hold legal title to property by a person for the benefit of himself or another.
  • Living Trust: A trust created for the trustor (you) and administered by you or another person during the trustor’s lifetime and used to distribute property after your death. The trust can be revocable (you can remove some or all the property from the trust) or irrevocable (you cannot cancel the trust and can receive only the funds or property allowed by the trust agreement).
  • Beneficiary: The recipient of funds, property or other benefits from an insurance policy, trust or will.
  • Trustee: One that holds legal title to property in a trust in order to administer it for a beneficiary.
  • Will: A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.

Tips to Avoid Estate Planning Fraud

    • First and foremost, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Don’t assume that because your estate isn’t huge that people won’t bother trying to scam you.
    • If you are feeling pressured to sign something, this should send up a red flag not sign it.
    • If you don’t understand what you’re signing, absolutely do not sign it.
    • When you’re not dealing with an attorney for your estate planning, you shouldn’t get any push back if you ask to take your paper work to an estate planning attorney for review

Errors in Estate Planning

According to Forbes contributing author, Rob Clarfeld, there are several mistakes commonly made when
planning your estate.

1. Straight up not having a plan at all. This allows intestacy laws to prevail upon your death.

2. A DIY will or trust is a uniquely bad idea. If you are not a family law attorney, you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing and these generic forms aren’t going to put your wishes in a
well thought out and organized plan that reflects your unique set of circumstances.

3. Not reviewing beneficiary designations and the proper titling of accounts.

4. Failure to consider the estate and gift tax consequences of life insurance.

5. Not maximizing annual gifting limits.

Really it doesn’t matter how little or how large your estate is or you hope for it to be, estate planning is essential. It’s a confusing process, requires much advice from knowledgeable individuals. The attorneys at Knight and Moskow are very familiar with Family Law in Pennsylvania. We can create an estate plan that reflects your desires upon your passing. We’re knowledgeable about how to protect your assets from some taxes. We can advise you how to accomplish exactly what you want after you’re no longer here to do it yourself. Contact us to put an estate plan into action.

Do I Need A Will?


Estate planning is important to everyone. None of us really know how long we will live. At every stage of life, past the age of 18, your will you should be either created, if you don’t have one, or it should be reviewed with your attorney.

What is a Will?

Basically a will is a legally binding article in which you express your wishes upon your death. This may include assets, funeral wishes, or guardianship of minors among other things specific to your needs. Generally speaking most, most states have laws with regards to how your assets are divvied up among your heirs, should you expire not having a will. The state’s determination may be completely contradictory to your wishes, so you should consider creating a will.

Why do I need to make a will?

Essentially everyone should have a will except minors of course. Whenever you experience a life change, a marriage, divorce, birth, retirement for example, your will needs to be reviewed with your attorney. You may want to change the executor of a will, or create a living will or trust.

Those who truly need a will:

  • If you have minor children. You should write a will in order to appoint guardians for your minor children, and trustees to manage their property.
  • If you have no children. In some states, those who pass without a will, the state grants the living spouse mostly everything, but in some states the family, parents, and siblings also receive consideration.
  • If you have a large family. All of your heirs will become co-owners of every asset you own upon your death. With a will, you could leave specific assets to specific heirs, or put one heir in charge as trustee for the others. Either way, writing a will would save your heirs significant hassle and expense. For some families, having to follow a will is also a more peaceful process than the feud
    that can ensue.
  • If you own real estate. In the absence of a will, real estate is likely to be inherited by numerous co-owners. In which case, all the co-owners must all agree on the sale of the real estate, as well
    as they are responsible for any property taxes and the management of the property.

Family Law in Pennsylvania is not any less complicated than other states. There are specific laws that deal with those who pass without having a will. It’s important to talk with an attorney to ensure that your wishes are carried out. The attorneys at Knight and Moskow can provide you with the guidance you need to construct a will, trust, power of attorney, a health proxy or any other type of family law need you are facing. Contact us and discuss your needs.