Does a trust-based estate plan still need an attorney's help?

On behalf of Scaringi Law posted in Estate Planning on Friday, October 16, 2015.

What happens when assets are not properly titled in a trust? As you might have guessed, such assets will likely have to go through probate. A law firm like ours that focuses on estate planning can help individuals avoid such common mistakes.

Yet estate planning isn't just about titles. On a practical level, an attorney can also help organize an estate plan. For example, a recent article described an individual who took out certificates of deposits in a variety of different banks but failed to keep a record of them. His beneficiary had no way of tracking those assets, and essentially learned about them only when statements or notices arrived in the mail.

Although an individual may have established revocable trusts to avoid probate, such estates generally must also include a pour over will to direct any leftover property into the trusts. Thus, even trust-based estate plans may also have a will, and hence the need for an organized approach to documentation.

An attorney can also help individuals prepare a checklist for surviving loved ones to follow. This approach can be especially helpful when the surviving spouse or other family member was not in control of the family's finances.

Finally, an attorney can also help issue spot legal matters that might otherwise go undetected. For example, individuals in Pennsylvania might not realize that there is a state inheritance tax, in addition to federal estate tax. While the federal exemption is well over $5 million, the state counterpart is much lower. Specifically, the family exemption for Pennsylvania's inheritance tax is $3,500 for individuals dying after January 29, 1995.

Source: Time, "When Dad Isn't the Greatest Financial Role Model," Don Chamberlin, Oct. 6, 2015

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