Estate planning helps to ensure that your assets and estate are administered and distributed pursuant to your directive, particularly in the case of divorce, when a former partner is no longer a part of your financial future. The attorneys at Williams Family Law, P.C. are here to help you make informed decisions that will protect you and your assets for a secure future that exists beyond divorce proceedings.
Our value: a comprehensive approach that ensures peace of mind
At Williams Family Law, we know that separation, divorce and other family law matters usually trigger major changes in financial and estate plans. When that happens, we work with family law clients to manage the intricacies of the intersection of family law with estate law; this provides a significant advantage during most family law matters.
We are dedicated to offering experienced guidance to our clients in all aspects of the estate planning process, including the preservation and management of one’s estate, preparations for proper business succession, and understanding the impact of inheritance taxes.
Understanding estate planning
Regardless of the size or complexity of your estate, there are several main aspects to the estate planning process that are important to know:
Advanced Health Care Directives
An Advanced Health Care Directive (also referred to as a “living will”) allows people to decide in advance what type of health care they would prefer in the event they are unable to express their wishes for medical treatment. Simultaneously, Advanced Directives can reassure family members that measures being enacted are in alignment with the individual’s desires. During and after a divorce, an Advanced Directive also provides instructions for when a legal partner is not available. In addition, an Advance Health Care Directive permits you to nominate or appoint an Agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
Estate Administration & Probate Law
Estate administration is the process of managing and distributing the assets of the deceased. The tasks of estate administration and probate fall to the executor or personal representative named in the will, or if there is no will (intestacy or intestate estate), an administrator is appointed by the court. Probate is the specific manner by which an individual’s estate is distributed through the legal system. In Pennsylvania, small estates can go through a simplified process.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney permits the appointment of a trusted individual to manage one’s financial and medical affairs, if one has not had an Advanced Health Care Directive prepared nominating an Agent, in the event that they are incapacitated and/or unable to do so effectively on their own.
Wills & Trusts
In order to ensure that your assets are distributed pursuant to your directive or wishes, a last will and testament is necessary. A will goes into effect only after an individual’s death. In contrast, a trust takes effect immediately after it is created, and typically is used for setting aside funds or property.
What happens in the event of an estate dispute?
When a will or trust is in dispute, families can be torn apart at the very time they should be comforting or supporting each other. At Williams Family Law, our family law and estate planning attorneys work to ensure that clients face the least financial and emotional distress possible.
However, if litigation is unavoidable, our lawyers are vigorous advocates on behalf of our clients.
What happens if you have not done any estate planning?
When getting divorced, it is an extremely important time to consider having a will, power of attorney and an Advanced Health Care Directive prepared. Preparing a will ensures that you have appointed someone to administer your estate; it will further ensure that you have identified a guardian to care for any minor children in the event of your death and the death or unavailability of the surviving parent. Failure to prepare these documents can result in internal family conflict and unnecessary uncertainty for the family at an already difficult time.
If you have questions regarding an estate plan to protect your assets or ensure long-term security during or following a divorce, or regarding how an estate plan might be affected by a family law matter, please contact our office.