Areas of Practice

Asset Protection: If you currently need, or think you may in the future need, to make application for nursing home care, this can be a complicated and daunting procedure. Preparing the Medical Assistance (MA) application to the Pennsylvania Department Of Welfare is a time consuming and tedious undertaking. I can assist you in both planning for Medical Assistance or in the application process.

Contesting A Will: Do you feel something is not right with a Will in which you are receiving or should be receiving a legacy? Or, do you want to be sure that your own Will is not contested? In either case, I may be able to assist you. If you feel you may be in a position to challenge a Will, be certain you have the correct advise before undertaking what could be a lengthy and costly endeavor. In regard to your own Will, I can assist you in clarifying your intentions, incorporating them into a professionally drafted Will or Trust document, and supervising the proper execution of these documents. When this process is done correctly, it greatly minimizes the chances that your Will or Trust will be contested in the future.

Estate Administration: Has a loved one or acquaintance died and named you as the Executor of his or her Will? Or, has that loved one or acquaintance died without a Will and there needs to be an administration of his or her estate? If so, I will be happy to assist you in getting through the complexities of an estate administration. This would include the collection and organization of the decedent's assets, the payment of his or her bills, including any death or succession taxes which may be due Federal government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the distribution of the balance of the decedent's assets. The estate administration process, including the payment of death taxes, can be full of pitfalls. I can give you the professional assistance you need for the efficient and cost effective administration of a decedent's estate.

Estate Planning: The proper planning of your estate can insure that your wishes will be carried out at the time of your death. Or, if you become incapacitated and can no longer handle your own affairs, your financial and medical needs will be met. The essential documents in most estate plans usually include one or more of the following: 1) a Will or Trust, 2) a Durable General Power Of Attorney, 3) a Limited Power Of Attorney For Medical Care, and 4) a Living Will (Medical) Declaration. If you think you need one or more of these documents, you probably do. Contact me for a review of your estate planning needs.

Estate Recovery: You may be faced with a circumstance where the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare is making a claim against an estate for payments made to a nursing home or other care facility on behalf of a decedent. There are many regulations and/or exceptions which may apply to keep this estate recovery to a minimum. Know what these regulations and/or exceptions are so that you only pay what is legally owed.

Fiduciary Accounting: Have you been appointed as the Executor or Administrator of someone's estate? If so, you are responsible to the heirs of the decedent and to the court: 1) to accurately account for the assets you have taken into the estate, 2) to pay the bills which are owed by the decedent or his estate, 3) to pay the succession or death taxes which may be due in a timely manner, and 4) make the correct distribution of any remaining asset balance. I can guide you through the process of an estate administration, and help you provide an accurate accounting to both the decedent's beneficiaries and the court.

Guardianship: You may be involved in a circumstance where an individual, because of age or other infirmity, can no longer make decisions concerning his or her financial, medical or personal affairs. Unfortunately, through lack of proper estate planning, that individual may not have in place a financial or medical power of attorney. If this is the case, it may be necessary for a trusted relative or friend to be appointed as guardian of the individual's person and/or estate. The guardianship procedure involves a petition to and hearing before the Orphans' Court wherein a judge will determine if a guardianship is needed and, if so, whether the person requesting guardianship is qualified to act as guardian. If you are facing the situation where you believe an individual may need a guardian appointed on his or her behalf, I can advise you and, if needed, assist in the procedure.

Home Visits: In my practice, I deal with many elderly clients. Because of age or other infirmities, many of these clients have difficulty in getting to my office to meet with me. As a result, I offer to go to the client's residence to meet and review with them their estate planning needs and answer their questions. Not only is this more convenient for elderly clients, it gives them a more comfortable and familiar setting in which to discuss and review these matters.

Inheritance And Other Death Taxes: As you may know, when a person dies and leaves property to another, either by way of a Will or Trust or by a joint or "In Trust For" bank account, there is an Inheritance Tax which must be paid to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To avoid penalty and interest, the tax must be paid within nine (9) months of the decedent's death. Depending on their relationship to the decedent, individuals are taxed at different rates. There are certain types of property excluded from the tax and numerous deductions which can be taken to reduce the amount of the tax ultimately due. In addition to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax, for estates that meet certain asset levels, there may also be a Federal Estate Tax due on a decedent's estate. To avoid penalty and interest, there are strict time limits within which these death tax returns must be filed and the taxes paid. I have done numerous death tax returns, and will assist you in preparing and filing the returns and paying only the tax which is legally due.

Living Trusts: Over the last decade or so, Living Trusts have become very popular in estate planning circles. But, that said, a Living Trust is not an advisable estate planning tool for everyone. They do not eliminate either Pennsylvania inheritance taxes or Federal estate taxes. In addition, they are more costly to prepare and set up when contrasted with the drafting and execution of a Last Will And Testament. However, for some individuals, a Living Trust may be the tool needed to carry out their estate plan. If a Living Trust is of interest to you, or you would like to compare a Living Trust to a Will, feel free to contact me.

Living Wills: A Living Will (sometimes referred to as a Medical Declaration) comes into play when a person is in an end stage medical condition and can not communicate with his or her doctor to inform them what medical treatment they want or do not want. If they have prepared a Living Will, this document will be made part of their medical records or "chart." It will inform the doctor of the treatments the person does or does not want. The Living Will should also list the name, address and phone number of one or more surrogates. These are individuals who the doctor can contact regarding what treatments to give or withhold from a patient.

Medicaid (Medical Assistance) Planning: As noted above under "Asset Protection," if you feel you may in the future need to make application to the PA Department of Public Welfare for nursing home care, you may want to consider doing some planning for this event. There maybe some actions you can and should take prior to the time you need to make the application for Medical Assistance that may help preserve assets for your heirs. Be aware that time is a critical factor in MA planning. If nursing home care is of concern to you, we should meet to review the issues involved.

Medicaid (Medical Assistance) Applications & Appeals: The actual Medical Assistance application to the PA Department of Welfare is detailed, requires a lot of information and documentation, and must be carefully and properly completed before Medical Assistance can be approved by the Department. Those individuals who do not have the time or ability to prepare the application and gather the necessary documentation may be unfairly denied the Medical Assistance they are rightfully entitled to under the law. In addition, if the Medical Assistance application is denied, or you feel the assistance as approved has not been properly calculated, this decision must be timely appealed to the Welfare Department. I can assist you in the Medical Assistance application and, if necessary, the appeal processes.

Powers Of Attorney: Next to a Last Will And Testament, a Power Of Attorney (financial and/or medical) is the most important document in one's estate planning portfolio. The purpose of a Power Of Attorney is to have someone act in your stead (your Agent) if, due to illness or other incapacity, you are not able to take care of your own financial and/or medical affairs. With financial and medical Powers Of Attorney in place, one can avoid the complications and costs associated with a guardianship proceeding. (See notes under "Guardianship" above.)

Real Estate Transactions: There can be numerous legal issues involved in buying or selling a home or piece of real estate. Or, for estate planning purposes, you are transferring a home or real estate to another. Additionally, the sale or transfer of real estate is oftentimes part of the administration of a decedent's estate. Whatever the case, you want to be sure the transaction is handled in a professional manner. There is nothing worse the finding out years after a transfer, usually when the property is again going to be sold or otherwise transferred, that a mistake was made with the deed and you must go through the expense and hassle of having to correct the mistake. If you feel you may need assistance with buying or selling a home or other transfer of real estate, call me to get it right the first time.

Special Needs Trusts: For those individuals with special needs, a Special Needs Trust provides a mechanism to ensure that beneficiaries who are disabled can enjoy the use of property which is held in trust for there benefit. Just as important, such trusts are also designed to insure that the trust beneficiaries do not lose access to their essential government benefits. They are frequently used to receive and protect an inheritance or the proceeds of a personal injury settlement. If a Special Needs Trust is to be established for a disabled child or young person, care must be taken in the choice of appropriate trustees who will prudently manage the trust assets and deal with future contingencies as they arise. Do you have a circumstance which may require a Special Needs Trust? If so, call me and we can discuss it.

Wills: A Last Will And Testament is often the foundation of an individual's estate plan. By way of a well drafted Will, a person directs where her or his property will go at the time of death and who will manage the administration of their estate. A Will must be well drafted to accommodate one's family and individual circumstances. In addition to proper drafting, the Will must be executed (signed) in order to comply with the particular nuances of Pennsylvania law. Whether you feel you need a "simple" Will or the circumstances of your estate require something more in detail, I will be happy to guide you through the Will making and execution processes.