Estate Planning, Estate Administration & Estate Litigation

We provide a broad range of services related to all aspects of estate planning, including the preparation of wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, health-care directives, living wills, special needs trusts, and life insurance trusts; estate administration including all aspects of the probate process from the opening of the estate to the distribution and closing of the estate; and representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and creditors in Orphans’ Court litigation, including will contests, claims by and against fiduciaries and questions of interpretation of wills and trusts.

Estate Planning

We can help you and your family in planning for the preservation and distribution of your estate.  We will meet with you to review your family and financial circumstances and your objectives and then offer the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, establishing guardianships and trusts for children or disabled individuals, caring for pets, supporting charitable causes and protecting your family. We believe in the team approach to estate planning and will coordinate our efforts with your other trusted advisers such as your accountant, insurance agent and investment adviser.  To meet your goals and needs, we will prepare appropriate documentation such as simple and complex wills, trusts, business succession plans, durable powers of attorney and healthcare advance directives.

Our services include assisting clients in establishing:

  • Simple or complex wills with trusts for children, grandchildren or disabled individuals, business provisions, marital trusts (QTIP) and credit shelter trusts as appropriate.
  • Family programs for annual giving to minimize federal estate and gift taxes.
  • Revocable or living trusts.
  • Special needs trusts to protect and preserve assets for disabled individuals.
  • Beneficiary designations for life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
  • Irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), for clients to receive and administer life insurance proceeds.
  • Grantor retained interest trusts (GRITs), grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor retained unitrusts (GRUTs), to transfer property from one generation to the next, while allowing grantors to receive income from the assets during their lifetime.
  • Qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), to transfer residences to the next generation, while allowing grantors to continue living in their current residence.
  • Education trusts, to allow for lifetime and testamentary dispositions towards children’s and grandchildren’s education expenses.
  • Charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs), charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs) and charitable lead trusts (CLUTs/CLATs), to transfer property or income interests to qualified charities, while retaining certain rights in the gifted property.
  • Family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, as a way to isolate potential liability with respect to certain assets, make dispositions of fractional interests in such assets to a younger generation, allow continued management control of the assets during the client’s lifetime and provide for continued family ownership and management of the assets.
  • Tax-exempt charitable family foundations, to make lifetime and testamentary deductible charitable bequests and establish a charitable family legacy that can be managed by future generations.

Estate Administration

Our attorneys and paralegals provide complete legal and tax solutions when your loved one has passed away.  We have extensive experience in working with complicated estate administration issues, whether the deceased died with a will (testate estate) or without a will (intestate estate), or with a revocable or irrevocable trust, and can assist you every step of the way. Our services include:

  • Assistance in getting appointed by the Register of Wills as personal representative of the estate whether as an administrator of an intestate estate or an executor of a testate estate.
  • Compliance with requirements of law such as notice to beneficiaries and advertising the estate.
  • Asset gathering, identification and payment of debts.
  • Post-mortem planning analysis including the potential use of disclaimers.
  • Preparation and filing of state inheritance tax return and federal and state estate tax returns.
  • Preparation and filing of Inventory of assets of estate.
  • Assistance with distributions of the estate and preparation of receipts and releases and advance distributions prior to the close of the estate.
  • Fiduciary income tax issues and returns.
  • Assistance with closing the estate including preparation of family settlement agreements, receipts and releases, formal Orphans’ Court accounts, preparation of petition for adjudication and schedule of distribution, and status reports to the court.

We also have experience in the administration of trusts including accounts and administration, modification of trust, change of trustee, representation of trustees and beneficiaries, and trust interpretation. 

Estate Litigation

We also have expertise in representing individuals and families in all types of estate litigation matters.  In Pennsylvania, such matters are heard in the county Orphans’ Court. Estate disputes and matters may include the following:

  • Will Contests – a challenge to the validity of a will, such as a claim of diminished capacity and undue influence; this may include as well challenges to the validity of a trust or power of attorney.
  • Fiduciary Disputes – Claims by or against fiduciaries (e.g., executors, administrators, trustees, guardians, or agents) relating to the administration of an estate or trust or handling of a power of attorney or guardianship; includes disputes regarding interpretation of will or trust provisions, breach of fiduciary duty, and removal of fiduciary.
  • Administration Issues – Requests to court by fiduciaries seeking direction on questions relating to the performance of their duties, modification of trusts, applicants asking for guardianship orders of an incapacitated person or a minor, and dependents who seeking distributions from an estate or trust.

Not all disputes end up in litigation.  We will assist you in trying to amicably resolve in a cost effective manner any disputes that arise in the administration of a will or trust.