Due to COVID-19, most court functions in the state have been suspended. In addition, our office is working remotely. For assistance, please email esr@mmzlaw.com with your contact information and the legal matter you need help with and someone will be in touch. If you are seeking help regarding a Will, Financial, or Health Care Power of Attorney, every effort will be made to respond as quickly as possible.

Estate Planning FAQ: What are Tenants in Common?

Two people signing paperwork to become tenants in common on home purchase

When it comes to estate planning, there are many legal terms involved that can cause confusion. If you are attempting to take a DIY approach without help from an experienced probates and estates attorney, you’re likely going to have a lot of questions.

The term “tenants in common,” as well as the term “joint tenancy”—both of which refer to ways real estate property ownership may be structured—are two that often raise questions for those outside the legal world. That’s why we’re dedicating today’s blog post to explaining this terminology in a little more detail. Both ownership structures have benefits and drawbacks, and they affect how property is transferred to heirs.

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Don’t Forget the Tax Man During Pennsylvania Estate Administration

Signing of 1040 form

As the executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate, your fiduciary relationship to the estate places a lot of responsibility squarely on your shoulders. An executor must make critical decisions for the estate and the beneficiaries in keeping with the law. Filing paperwork in a timely fashion and fulfilling financial and legal obligations are the name of the game when it comes to estate administration, and this includes timely tax filings and payments.

Don’t forget the tax man. Between death taxes on asset values and fiduciary income taxes on the estate’s income, your head might be spinning. There are filing deadlines and tax payments that must be made, and failure to meet these deadlines can be costly, opening up the executor or administrator to penalties and interest.

Today’s post gives you some insight into making sure you are considering all the tax work as you are following the probate process and administering the estate. We want you to realize that you do not have to go it alone.

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What is Probate When It Comes to Estate Planning

probate written on puzzle piece

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 7

As we’ve established throughout earlier chapters in our Complete Guide to Estate Planning, the prospect of probating a friend or family member’s estate can be scary.

There are many steps involved in opening probate, determining whether you’ll be required to undertake the formal process (versus Pennsylvania’s simplified probate process for estates with assets totaling less than $50,000), and then moving through the appropriate version of the process itself.

Very complex estates may remain in probate for years. And while the good news is that these situations tend to be few and far between, taking a DIY approach to probating an estate of any size is not often a good idea. You can save yourself frustration and time by consulting with an experienced probate and estates attorney.

Our previous blog post outlining the phases of probate in Pennsylvania—and what you can expect as you move through this legal process—is a must-read if you’ve recently been placed in a fiduciary role as a personal representative for a friend or family member’s estate.

But how do you make even a lengthy probate process as painless as possible? Today’s post offers a few important steps you can take to survive probate with minimal frustration.

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Estate Planning Considerations for Your Digital Assets

digital assets on wooden table

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 6

As the digital age advances and more elements of our lives move online, a trending question in modern estate planning is how to manage an individual’s intangible, electronic assets like their web presence and contents of various online accounts once they have passed away.

It’s true that some of these so-called digital assets can pass through your last will to your family members and other heirs, but there are many more that you don’t actually own the rights to. Yet, these other types of accounts still often need to be handled in some way—archived, deactivated, deleted—so that data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Today’s post highlights a few things you need to think about your digital life as you work through the entire estate planning process covered in our ongoing blog series, Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning.

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Tips For Crafting Your Last Will & Testament in Pennsylvania

Will and Testament Document

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 5

Though drafting your last will—the central document in estate planning—here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may seem complicated at first, our home state actually has few solid requirements for what a will must look like. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should scribble yours on a bar napkin and sign it with a purple marker you found.

Your goal should be to create a clear and unquestionably valid document that allows your loved ones to administrate your estate with ease after you’re gone—your will is essentially a gift to your friends and family in this way. And working with an experienced probate and estates attorney on all of your estate planning matters is the best way to accomplish that goal.

This chapter in our Complete Guide to Estate Planning offers a few tips that will help you write and maintain (that’s right—this document is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing) a solid last will and testament that accomplishes your wishes while avoiding common pitfalls.

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Advance Directives and Living Wills: What’s the Difference?

Living Will

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 4

Have you been following our ongoing estate planning post series here on the blog in recent months? If so, you’ve likely noticed that much of estate planning has to do with establishing legally valid documentation that conveys your end-of-life wishes regarding your assets and property.

Did you know that there is also specific estate planning documentation that deals with your personal health and physical body? You may have heard of these advance directives, but likely have many questions. Today’s post focuses on healthcare decision-making at times when a person cannot express their wishes, how their wishes are properly documented, and why you should seriously consider establishing these instructions as part of your unique estate plan.

This may sound relatively simple, and you’ll find that do-it-yourself forms are widely available online—after all, what’s a little bit of paperwork? However, there are many different points to consider, and even modest estates can benefit from strategizing with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that the right documents are prepared in the right way to accomplish your goals and support your loved ones.

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More on Trusts: Are They Right For Me?


Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 3

In discussing essential documents in Chapter 1 of our Complete Guide to Estate Planning, we took a brief look at trusts and gave some basic information about how these arrangements can be confusing or problematic. There are a vast number of different types of trusts, and unfortunately, they are often marketed and sold to individuals who do not actually need them to accomplish their estate planning goals.

Today’s post digs a little deeper into what distinguishes a few of the different types of trusts from one another so you can begin to understand whether you might want to include a trust in your unique estate plan to account for a specific financial goal. One word of caution, however—setting up trusts is not something you should attempt without guidance from a seasoned estate planning attorney. Taking a DIY approach to estate planning, and especially to establishing trusts, will likely create problems for your loved ones later, and can also easily result in greater ongoing tax expenses for the rest of your life.

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Understanding Power of Attorney (POA)

Power of Attorney document

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 2

As we touched on in the previous chapter of our Complete Guide to Estate Planning, power of attorney (POA) is an essential estate planning document that gives a trusted individual or individuals, which you designate, the power to act on your behalf.

These designees are referred to as your “agents” or “attorneys-in-fact,” and they can take any action specified in the document such as managing your general affairs if you are unable to do so, or simply completing a single project for you, like selling your home. POA designations are flexible and can be shaped to accommodate a variety of circumstances.

Have you been wondering whether designating a power of attorney for yourself or a loved one is a good idea? Or perhaps someone close to you has asked you to take on this responsibility for them?

As part of our ongoing post series, comprehensive estate planning information is right here on our blog to make navigating the ins and outs of estate planning in Pennsylvania easy and worry-free. Today’s post offers a closer look at power of attorney designations, why they’re important, and how you can set up clear and effective POA documentation for greater peace of mind.

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More on Estate Planning Basics: What Documents Do I Need?

Signing documents

Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning – CHAPTER 1

It’s true that estate planning primarily involves the creation of legally valid documents and directives that accomplish your end-of-life wishes. While it also calls for thoughtful conversations with loved ones and often a bit of soul-searching, it is strategizing with an experienced estate planning advisor and assuring that you have all of your documentation in order that is ultimately crucial.

As part of our ongoing post series, your complete guide to estate planning is right here on our blog to make navigating the ins and outs of estate planning in Pennsylvania easy and worry-free. Here’s what you need to think about in terms of key estate planning documents.

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Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning

Estate Planning

While it’s true that many people don’t enjoy planning for the end of their lives, a solid estate plan is an invaluable gift to your family and others you wish to remember. And the best way to create your will, decide whether trusts are right for your financial situation, or designate a power of attorney, among other planning matters, is to work with a reputable probate and estates lawyer to guide you.

Today we’re beginning a new post series here on the blog to show you everything you need to think about as you go through the estate planning process, including how to find the most experienced probate and estates attorneys right in your local community. We invite you to stop back frequently for updates and learn more about the estate planning services that the best law firms have to offer.

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