1. Home
  2.  ► Estate Planning

Protect Your Assets, Your Family And Your Future

Estate planning involves making arrangements for how your affairs will be handled if you experience a serious injury, illness or death. Your estate plan typically consists of legal documents such as a Will, powers of attorney and trust, but can also consist of arrangements such as deeds, pay-on-death beneficiary endorsements, joint ownership with right of survivorship, etc.

Every estate plan is different and must be customized to your individual needs and concerns. At Marks Elder Law, we work one-on-one with our clients to tailor your estate plan to your unique circumstances. Our lawyers in Western Pennsylvania can even work with your financial adviser, accountant or other professionals as needed.

The Importance Of Having An Estate Plan

Drafting an estate plan now to state your wishes for later is essential as it allows you to declare how you want your affairs handled and by whom. If you become disabled or pass away without an estate plan in place, your wishes may be unknown, questioned or not followed. Your estate may go through the probate process unnecessarily, or where an impersonal judge may make important decisions about you.

Creating an estate plan with our attorneys can help to avoid or reduce significant legal problems and expenses for your family. Additionally, most aspects of your planned estate are flexible and can be changed at any time.

We offer a wide range of estate planning services, including:

  • Last will and testament
  • Living trust or revocable trust
  • Irrevocable trust
  • Special needs trust
  • Asset protection trust
  • Gifting and tax planning
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Health care power of attorney and living will
  • Long-term care planning
  • Deeds and asset transfers
  • Planning with IRAs, 401ks, etc.

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Whether you are considering creating a new will, power of attorney or estate plan, or making changes to an existing plan, Marks Elder Law can help. We are known for providing personalized and detailed estate planning and elder law services to families and individuals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our lawyers are friendly, professional and knowledgeable about all areas of estate planning. We can answer all your questions as we guide you through the process of drafting a thorough estate plan.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wills And Estates

At Marks Elder Law, we help people every day with their questions and legal issues. We invite your questions and feedback at any time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help you and your family.

If I don’t have a Will, does my property get forfeited to the State of Pennsylvania?

NO – Property that you leave behind without a Will goes to your closest family relatives or “heirs” or “heirs-at-law” under Pennsylvania’s law of inheritance – basically, your closest family first, then in outward circles – spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc. Note that any property with a (living) beneficiary or co-owner with right of survivorship named goes directly and automatically to that person because of your signed written instructions to the bank, etc.  Only if you have no qualifying family left, then your property may “escheat” to the State. This is very rare.

Help! I have no one close to me to help me or to name as my executor.

This can be a tough one, but there is help available.

I hear this most often from elderly folks whose  family is all gone, or are new residents to the area. They have no person to name as “Agent” or “Executor.” There are professionals, for a fee, who will undertake these necessary responsibilities for you. There are small and large trust companies, and trust departments within financial organizations like Fidelity or TIAA to handle your money for you. There are smaller elder and disability care providers who can provide more personal decisions and health services. And there are professional Guardians and Representative Payees to manage benefits.

All my property is joint with someone else. Do I really need a Will?

Although it may be less urgent, I still recommend it—unless you can predict the future with certainty.

IF you have all your property joint with, or pay on death to someone else, and IF they survive you, then you won’t be leaving behind any assets in your name only that would pass under a Will (“probate assets”). But what if that person dies before you, leaving you back where you started, as the sole living owner of your property and no Will to control it?? Believe it or not there are also often lost, forgotten or stray accounts and assets that are discovered later, too, that would be properly disposed of under a Will. Having a Will is like having a spare tire in your car – because you never know when you might need it. If I’m making powers of attorney for you, we should go ahead and make sure you have a Will too at the same time.

I already have a Will. Why do I need Powers of Attorney?

Because they help in different ways at different times.

Power of Attorney only applies during your lifetime to say who you choose and appoint to help you, usually with either financial or healthcare decisions. A Will only comes into effect later, when you die. It directs who will inherit your assets, and who will be in charge of winding up your affairs.

Power of Attorney is just as important as a Will, because before you become deceased, you might become disabled. Without a signed POA, whoever is going to help – even your own spouse, often – instead has to go through a full court case to be appointed as your Legal Guardian.

Doesn’t Medicaid take your home when you go into the nursing home?

No. Medicaid doesn’t take anything from you. If you apply for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, Medicaid either says “yes”, you’re eligible and we’ll pay for you, or “no”, you’re not and we won’t. Now, to become eligible, you may need to choose to spend your money on your own care first, to get what you need – or better yet, to engage in smart asset protection planning strategies. If a nursing home doesn’t get paid, they may sue you – or your children! But no, neither Medicaid, nor the nursing home at the start, takes your home or anything else from you. Remember, though, there’s almost always something we can do to help a nursing home patient save money, and it’s never too late to try.

What’s the dollar amount limit that I’m allowed to gift this year?

It almost certainly doesn’t matter to you! The dollar amount limit is $18,000 per person, per year. It is part of the Federal Gift and Estate Tax system that only applies to the very rich. This annual “gift tax exclusion amount” will only be relevant for you if you die leaving behind more than $13 million per person, or $27 million per couple in 2024 (though that amount is coming down by half starting in the year 2026). There may be other legal or tax consequences to making gifts but generally, you’re free to give away whatever you want, to whoever you want.

Get Estate Planning Advice At A Free Initial Consultation

Let us help you with your estate plan. Call our Pittsburgh law firm today at 412-415-7586 or contact us by email to learn more during a free consultation! We offer payment plan options to make your services more affordable.