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Pennsylvania Estate Planning

You may be a few years out from retirement but you’re already planning ahead for your spouse and children. You need some assurance that they’ll be taken care of if anything should happen to you. How can you ensure that your children get a piece of your financial holdings, or that your brother gets that vintage car you own?

There are many tools to help you with estate planning in Pennsylvania. Whether you live in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or Erie, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo’s Pennsylvania estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family’s future and connect with a qualified local attorney.

Pennsylvania Revocable Trusts

One method commonly used in Pennsylvania to potentially reduce some of the estate tax and probate burdens of setting aside assets for your inheritors is creating a revocable trust. A revocable trust is a fiduciary agreement between you (the settlor) and a trustee to whom you transfer specific assets. The trustee administers your trust’s assets, which will be inherited by the trust’s beneficiaries after your death without needing to go through probate.

A settlor may name themselves the trustee of their revocable trust, though you would need to name a co-trustee in the event of your death or incapacity. Unlike an irrevocable trust, a revocable trust may be revoked at any time if your estate plans change.

Pennsylvania Wills

In Pennsylvania, you can ensure that the unclaimed assets of your estate are inherited by the people or charities you want by making a Last Will and Testament. A will is a legal document that contains your wishes for the distribution of your property to selected beneficiaries.

To create a will, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Pennsylvania law requires your will to be in writing and signed by you (the testator) and witnesses. You can only include your personal property and financial assets in your will that aren’t already reserved in other legal contracts like life insurance or trusts. A will allows you to name specific beneficiaries like family, friends or charity organizations, as well as an executor who will manage your estate according to your will after you die.

You can modify, change or revoke your will during your lifetime through codicils, another will or the physical destruction of part or the entire original will. Your will may also be modified automatically by special circumstances like divorce, marriage or the birth or adoption of new children.

Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes

When an estate is passed onto beneficiaries of a will or intestacy heirs in Pennsylvania, a percentage of the estate’s value is levied by an inheritance tax. The tax is due upon the decedent’s death and up to nine months before delinquency. The rate varies by the decedent’s relationship with the beneficiaries or heirs:

  • No tax levied on property owned jointly between spouses.
  • No tax levied on property owned by a child 21 years old or younger and passed to their parent(s).
  • 5 percent to children of direct or lineal descent.
  • 12 percent to siblings.
  • 15 percent to all other heirs except for charities and tax-exempt
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