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Estate Litigation Lawyer Allentown, PAEstate Lawyer Allentown, PA

As an inheritance lawyer in Allentown, Pennsylvania, we at Klenk Law understand that it may be difficult for you to discuss your personal affairs, especially those which involve your death, assets, and who will receive them. However, we encourage you not to ignore this sensitive topic because in doing so there could be legal and financial implications that may burden those you love most. Guided by more than 25 years of experience, we want to see your family protected to the best of the ability, and are ready to provide a comfortable environment to start planning your estate.

If you would like to learn more about our services, or are prepared to take the first steps, please call an Allenstown, PA inheritance lawyer from Klenk Law.

When You Don’t  Have a Valid Will in Allentown, PA

When someone in Pennsylvania dies without a valid will or estate plan, the assets pass through intestacy. The intestacy laws vary by state.  Intestacy also increases the chance of court involvement.

Intestate succession is meant to distribute assets in a way that resembles how an average person would do it had they drafted a will or estate plan. However, in practice, this isn’t always true.  There is a good chance the state rules do not reflect your wishes.

Even if you verbally express your wishes to another person, the state will usually refuse to consider this testimony. Furthermore, heirs may view with suspicion when a will is “suddenly discovered” outside a lawyer’s office. Such circumstances can trigger litigation. In general, when issues like these arise, you’ll want an inheritance lawyer in Allentown, PA on your side.

The Uniform Probate Code

Established in 1990, the Uniform Probate Code is at the core of most states’ legislation regarding estates and probate. In this code, the immediate family members, and not distant relatives, will be given the assets of the deceased. These members could include the surviving spouse, children, legally adopted children, and parents. If no immediate family members exist, the rules consider grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Should there be no remaining family members or relatives, the estate will likely go to the state where it may be auctioned off.

If you do not want this to happen to your assets, you should start planning an estate as soon as possible. An estate lawyer Allentown, PA residents trust from Klenk Law can guide you through the process to ensure your estate is legally binding.

Distributing an Estate

We are providing you a general overview following the Uniform Probate Code sections addressing the distribution of estate assets when no will exists.

  • If no will exists, the surviving spouse may be given the entire estate. Exceptions do apply; including:
  • The surviving spouse may receive the whole estate if there are no surviving children’ or parents.
  • When there are surviving parents, and no surviving children, in some states such as Pennsylvania the parents receive a portion.
  • If surviving children exist, the spouse may receive a portion of the estate with the remaining going to the children.
  • When the surviving children are not the children of the surviving spouse, they may receive a larger portion of the estate with the remaining going to the surviving spouse.
  • If no surviving spouse exists, but there are surviving children, they may be entitled to the entire estate.
  • When no surviving children or a surviving spouse exist, the surviving parents may receive the estate.
  • If there are no surviving children, spouse, or parents, siblings, grandparents, or other relatives may receive the estate.

Most people would not want their estate going to intestacy. Avoid intestacy through careful planning and preparation. To speak with an inheritance lawyer Allentown, PA clients recommend who can help, call Klenk Law.

Avoiding a Family Dispute 

Most people know of at least one story that involves a family dispute over an estate. There have been countless of these matters involving high profile people and celebrities; of which some are still being resolved in court. Children fighting with one another, stepparents arguing with step children. When an estate is involved, things can go from bad to worse in, what seems like, a split second. Thankfully, most families won’t have to deal with this – especially when an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA is involved. That said, money can bring out a different side to people. If you are concerned about the possibility of an estate dispute arising, speaking with Klenk Law is advisable. 

How to Prevent a Family Dispute from Arising?

There are various steps that you can take to avoid a dispute. Klenk Law recommends considering some of the following:

Carefully Name an Executor – At first you might think to name the eldest child your estates’ executor. Before you do so, ask yourself if they are best suited to the task. AN executor will have many duties and responsibilities. It is prudent they are honest, organized, communicative, patient, and responsible. They must also be of a sound mind. If your would-be executor lacks any of these qualities, you might want to consider a different person for this role. 

Avoid Unexpected Surprises – An estate plan tends to include a number of elements; of which may detail decisions that are best made in advance of your death. For example, if you plan leaving your home to your daughter and your vacation property to your son, this should be included in your estate plan. Moreover, it can be useful to explain your reasoning to your heirs beforehand. The reason for doing so, as an Allentown, PA estate lawyer would explain, is that it avoids surprises, disappointment, hurt feelings, and overall frustration. Of course you might be criticised or receive some unwanted feedback for your wishes. However, this should not change the way you feel. In the event a beneficiary starts to persuade or coerce you into changing the estate plan, it is more likely for a dispute to occur after your death. An estate lawyer in Allentown, Pennsylvania should be consulted to find out how this might be avoided. 

Consult with a Trusted Lawyer – Estate planning is a meticulous process that has many layers. It is highly recommended to consult with an Allentown, PA estate lawyer for advice, or to have the legal documents drafted. 

Six Questions To Ask Your Estate Lawyer

1. Are You Primarily Focused on Estate Planning?

While there are general practice lawyers who can handle a wide range of legal issues, you want to hire an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, for your estate planning. Estate specialists stay up to date with changes in the law. They also know the legal language to use in your documents to make sure your wishes are observed.

2. Will You Personally Execute the Plan?

The tasks of drawing up the estate plan and executing it may be performed by two different lawyers. There are also estate lawyers who do both. It is in your best interest to hire the latter. It is more efficient and adds the further assurance that your assets will be handled correctly. 

3. Do You Have Experience With Trusts, Wills, and Life Insurance?

Some estates can become extremely complicated. You want to hire an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, who is knowledgeable in all areas. Retain a lawyer who can explain to you the nuances of each tool and how it can benefit your estate and your heirs. A comprehensive estate plan, which may include all of the above, is the best way to protect your assets.

4. Do You Conduct Reviews Periodically?

Life changes, and perhaps your estate plan should, too. In addition, state or local legislation can be amended and impact your plans. It’s convenient to have an estate planning lawyer who periodically reviews your affairs. This could happen annually, or semi-annually. This type of review can spot any areas that you need to adjust to accommodate changes. 

5. Can You Handle Other Legal Issues Associated With Aging?

Many estate planning lawyers can assist their clients with other legal issues. For example, they can help you fiscally prepare for the possibility of dementia, disability, or the need for long-term care. You may be interested in powers of attorney, living wills, or healthcare directives. Hiring one lawyer to do all your paperwork is convenient.

6. How Long Will It Take You To Complete My Estate Plan?

Hopefully, you have begun this process far in advance so there is no imminent need. However, you or your lawyer may wish to talk to accountants, money managers, or retirement planners as you draw up your estate plan. All of this, of course, takes time. Get a general idea about the time frame involved to ensure that your lawyer will move the process forward appropriately. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing an Executor

Who Should I Name as Executor of My Estate?

The probate process can be complicated and time-consuming, so choosing the right executor is an often overlooked, but incredibly crucial, aspect of estate planning. There are certain characteristics that you should look for when considering who to name as your executor. The person you choose should be:

  • Trustworthy
  • Fair and impartial
  • Ethical
  • Organized
  • Responsible

In addition, the ideal executor will have time available to handle all of the tasks involved with settling an estate. They should also be strong-willed in case any arguments or challenges arise. Consulting with an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, can be beneficial if you need further guidance on choosing an executor.

Can I Choose a Beneficiary as Executor?

Yes, someone listed as a beneficiary in your will can also be named as the executor of your estate. This works best if the person you choose has a healthy relationship with other beneficiaries and members of your immediate family. The most important aspect, however, is often finding someone who meets the aforementioned characteristics. You can reach out to the knowledgeable attorneys at Klenk Law to discuss the best course of action.

Can I Name More Than One?

You can appoint joint executors, but it may not be the best idea. Any disagreements between multiple executors could stall the probate process and create additional problems. There are benefits to appointing more than one person to act as executor of your estate. The biggest advantage to this is the sharing of duties; this is a detailed process, and being able to divide and conquer would be beneficial. However, should you decide to name multiple executors, you must ensure they can complete their duties amicably. An estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, can help you decide which option is best for you.

What If My Executor Cannot Fulfill Their Duties?

If for whatever reason the person you’ve named as executor cannot accept the role or see the process through to completion, the court can appoint someone else. You also have the option of naming an alternate in your will. Should the executor you named accept the role but choose not to diligently and correctly fulfill it, your beneficiaries can request to remove them. An estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, like those at Klenk Law, could help them petition the probate court, which would then decide if the executor should be replaced.

Final Considerations to Help Avoid an Estate Dispute

  • Consult with the lawyer on your own, or with your spouse, and without friends and loved ones.
  • Keep your estate plan up to date.
  • If you have assets worth over $500,000, a lawyer might recommend a living trust.
  • Avoid naming a joint owner or co-owner of an asset if you plan to leave that asset to another person.
  • Offer guidance and explanation on the distribution of heirlooms and sentimental items. 

Maximize Your Legacy Through Giving

Educational Trust Formation

Turn on any news program and you’re bound to hear a report on the skyrocketing costs of higher education and the student debt crisis. Families are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for college without risking their financial futures. Consider consulting an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA to discuss setting up an educational trust, which is a fund specifically directing its assets to be used to finance its beneficiary’s education.

While many parents opt for 529 plans to fund their children’s university education because of the tax benefits conferred, grandparents do not receive the same tax incentives and may be burdened with estate tax issues. At the same time, high net worth individuals who choose 529 plans may exceed annual exclusions and find themselves and their beneficiaries liable for higher estate and gift taxes in the future. Grandparents and high net worth individual wishing to aid their beneficiaries’ educational pursuits could potentially benefit from forming an educational trust, which offers advantages of flexibility and estate tax minimization that 529 plans may not. In addition, unlike a 529, an educational trust can be divided up among multiple beneficiaries and disbursed accordingly without penalty. Experienced counsel at Klenk Law can advise you on how forming an educational trust can aid your beneficiaries and protect your assets for generations to come.

Charitable Trust Planning

If philanthropic giving has been an important facet of your wealth management planning approach, you may want to consider working with an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA to create a charitable trust capable of governing your giving strategy in advance of your death and after your passing. Charitable trusts are a financially advantageous way to fulfill your wishes, impact communities and charities, minimize your beneficiaries’ future tax liability, and carry on your legacy through causes you support.

An experienced estate lawyer at Klenk Law will be able to walk you through the different types of charitable trusts you can establish, including charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. Each of these will vary in their scope and ability to provide tax deferrals, returns to you and your loved ones, and disbursements to charitable organizations. Length of time and interest rates at the time of formation are important factors to consider, and an estate lawyer in Allentown, PA can advise on how to execute your wishes in a way that fits your needs and benefits the individuals inheriting your assets.

If you would like to learn more about the estate planning process, please reach out to the estate lawyers in Allentown, PA, from Klenk Law, today. 

 

What Our clients are saying

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Rachel Roney

Peter has done a great job with the estate planning for my father. He is very thorough and patient as we, the family need to make decisions.

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Brian M.

Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.

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Sharon S.

I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link for a question regarding a will. While I was expecting only a few minutes, it was a lengthy conversation. He made sure he understood the situation by asking many questions before offering advice. He then went through my options and results of each one. He left it up to me to decide if I wanted to proceed and did not push me toward one or another. His website has very useful information which I definitely researched before I called him. While I decided not to proceed at this time, I feel I had enough information to make that decision. I would not hesitate to hire him should I need to in the future.

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Sharon A.

We recently used Peter's firm to update our wills and trusts. We found he and his staff to be well-informed, professional and highly efficient. And equally valuable, Peter explains the law in terms that a layperson can readily understand.

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Maxine G.

Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.

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