by Bill Griffith Bill Griffith No Comments

Updating Your Power of Attorney

Updating your Power of Attorney is something that you should consider doing if there have been changes in your life or to Pennsylvania law.

If you set up your estate plan through our firm, your Living Trust Package includes one set of state-specific ancillary documents per person.

The following ancillary documents are included in your trust binder:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Assets
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare or Advance Directive
  • Living Will
  • Nomination of Conservator or Guardian

We recommend that people review their estate plan, which includes their ancillary documents, every five years to determine whether one or more of their powers of attorney should be updated based on changes in the law, their life, or other circumstances.

Life can be very unpredictable; you never know when something might happen. A sudden health emergency can happen anytime without warning and require immediate action.

Serious emergencies can upend a person’s entire life in a matter of days. We all know of someone who was living at home one day and then, due to a sudden emergency that caused a subsequent disability or incapacitation, went directly from the hospital to the assisted living/nursing home facility.

In the event of an emergency, a trusted family member or friend who is your appointed Attorney will then be able to act on your behalf. But, if you established your trust years ago, the person you named as the Successor Trustee of your Revocable Living Trust (RLT) and/or the appointed Attorney of your POA’s may no longer be available.

If you recently updated your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare or Advance Directive, the appointed Attorney will be able to make important and sometimes life-saving decisions on your behalf.

By reviewing your estate plan, you will be prepared for such an occurrence by deciding when the power granted to the appointed Attorney of your POA for Healthcare goes into effect.

For example, if you initialed the box that says, “This power shall not be affected by my subsequent disability or incapacity,” your appointed Attorney will be able to make decisions regarding your healthcare and personal finances immediately.

Due to the cost of long-term care (LTC), the Successor Trustee may also need to make decisions about your assets currently titled in the name of your Revocable Living Trust.

But what about assets NOT titled in the name of the trust? The Durable Power of Attorney for Assets “may” apply to assets NOT titled in the name of the trust. It is important to know what documents will be needed when the time comes. Having updated POA’s will make the process so much easier. For instance, when it comes to signing a real estate listing agreement, agreement of sale, and a deed, will the Successor Trustee be required to provide the Abstract of Trust along with proof showing that he or she is now the Successor Trustee? Or will the appointed Attorney be required to provide the Durable Power of Attorney for Assets?

Matters can be complicated when it is unclear whether a person may or may not still be able to serve as the Trustee of the trust. For example, what if a person becomes disabled, but is still competent?

The trust might state that, “Upon the death, resignation, disappearance, or incompetency of the Original Trustee, or if for any reason the Original Trustee is unable to serve, or to continue to serve as Trustee hereunder, the Trustor nominates and appoints someone to take over and serve as Successor Trustee of the Trust without the approval of any court.”

These are all important questions that should get answered sooner rather than later. By being proactive and getting your questions answered ahead of time, you will know whether the Successor Trustee can act automatically by virtue of the language in the Trust, or if anything will be needed prior to taking over as the Successor Trustee, such as a letter from a doctor.

Now that you know why reviewing and updating your Power of Attorney is so important, consider taking the time to update your own plans, especially if it has been over five years since setting up your estate plan.

by Bill Griffith Bill Griffith No Comments

COVID-19 Update

Over the last nine months, we have received many calls from people wanting to know if and how they can meet with us to pre-plan for their funeral or cremation, set up a Living Trust, and protect their home and life savings from unanticipated long-term care expenses. Maybe you are wondering the same thing.

We wanted to keep our community, especially those whose families we have been honored to serve, informed about how we have adjusted to continue to help people prepare for and feel more reassured about the future.

We wanted to let you know that yes, you can still work with us to ensure that your wishes for funeral arrangements are documented ahead of time.  Despite the ongoing changes that we are all facing, we make it easy and safe for you to plan for your funeral and cremation.

Whether you want to eliminate the costs and delays of probate to ensure that your loved ones will receive their inheritance promptly or protect your home and life savings from unanticipated long-term care expenses, we can help you organize your financial affairs to ensure your long-term security and independence.

Though we are taking extra precautions with respect to physical distancing, masking, and sanitizing for in-person meetings, we are also available to work with you remotely, either via telephone, on the web, or via email.

We can still help you plan so that everything is taken care of no matter how you prefer to meet with us.

For example, our new cremation center is the premier online cremation resource for families choosing cremation services in Pittsburgh, PA, and surrounding communities.  You can choose the cremation package and merchandise that you prefer at your convenience and in the comfort of your own home.  You can make your own selections and provide the required biographical information entirely online. 

If you would like to eliminate anxiety and uncertainty over your affairs during this challenging time and make things easier for those you love, please schedule an appointment today. 

We can help you organize your financial affairs to ensure your long-term security and independence.

It’s all about your future™

by Bill Griffith Bill Griffith No Comments

Reviewing Your Estate Plan

Reviewing your estate plan periodically will ensure that your Revocable Living Trust and other estate planning documents are properly aligned with your most important goals.

Are you confident that your estate plan is designed properly? Do you know how your estate will pass to your beneficiaries?

If not, you can gain a better understanding of how your estate plan is designed and the level of stress that your loved ones may incur if something where to happen to you.

One of the main goals of estate planning, for many people, is to minimize the burden of estate settlement.  One way of minimizing the burden of estate settlement is by avoiding probate.  One way of avoiding probate is with a living trust.

How Does a Living Trust Avoid Probate?

After a living trust is created for our clients, we help them transfer the title of their assets to their trust.  Although the title of their assets has been transferred to their trust, they still control the living trust during their lifetime.  As the Trustee, they still manage their assets for their own benefit during their lifetime.  They can still use their assets just as they did before they set up their trust.

Since their trust owns the assets, and not them personally, their estate does not have to go through the probate process when they die.

Funding a Living Trust

Transferring the title of assets to a living trust is really a simple process.  It is called funding the trust.  To minimize the burden of estate settlement by avoiding the probate process, the Revocable Living Trust must be funded properly.

By reviewing your estate plan periodically, you can be sure that your living trust is properly funded upfront to avoid the unintentional expense of probate.

Changes in Personal Circumstances

Another reason for reviewing your estate plan is to account for changing laws and changes in personal circumstances.

Do Your Powers of Attorney Documents Need Updated?

Every so often, the state will change the laws for the Durable Power of Attorney.  In addition to changing laws, some financial institutions may not accept a POA that was drafted many years ago.

The cost for updating powers of attorney and other ancillary estate planning documents is minimal.

It is highly recommended that people review their estate plan at least once each year to make sure that their estate plan remains current and to ensure that any new assets were properly titled in the name of the trust.

An even better and easier way to keep on top or your estate plan is by using our interactive estate planning program. You’ll be able to keep your information up to date and allow other authorized users, such as your child, to view your Pre-Paid Funeral Expenses, your legal and other documents right online.

To login for the first time to begin an estate plan, simply click My Estate Plan at the top of the screen. We’ll send you a separate email with a link to complete an interactive questionnaire.

by Bill Griffith Bill Griffith No Comments

Living Trust Can Avoid Probate

A living trust can avoid probate and ensure that your assets will pass to the beneficiaries you choose, and in the manner that you want.

A trust can be a fundamental part of planning for the future.  Trusts can help people avoid probate, unnecessary taxes, put their wealth to use in exactly the way they wish, accumulate assets for retirement or their beneficiaries, and much more.

Read more