Estate Planning Attorneys in Pennsylvania

Russell Law offers deep knowledge and experience in protecting individuals and families planning for an individual’s death or disability.  A small investment of time and effort in this planning saves families substantial money, time and expense.

Attorney Ken Russell

Estate Planning Goals

After a lifetime’s worth of time and work accumulating assets to take care of yourself and your family, it is critically important that you finish strong to ensure that your wishes are followed and that the transition is as easy as possible for you and your loved ones. That is best done by working with a seasoned and experienced law firm who can craft a customized estate plan or estate plan trust that fits your circumstances.

When someone passes away, there is a “snapshot” taken of the estate plan and the family circumstances that exist at the time. In administering estates over the years, our firm sees the mistakes that were made in the planning process which splits families and impairs hard earned assets. It is experience in planning estates, administering estate and litigating estates which permit an attorney to ask the right questions, determine the goals of someone in their plan, and then to create an estate plan which accomplishes those goals in a manner which is protective of the family and the assets.

Clients arrive at our door in all “shapes and sizes” – married or not married, big family, no family, business owners, vacation homes, older, younger, new child – everyone has their own reasons – personal to them – to create an estate plan that helps them achieve a goal for their family’s future. It is critical to understand the client’s circumstance, family, loved ones, assets and hopes and fears for the future, which provide keys to developing the right plan.

Creating an estate planning goal is important because it is a means to protect both your family and your assets, present and future. When creating your unique estate planning goal, there are many moving parts, such as: what assets do you own? How can you protect those assets now and in the future? Are there ways to maximize those assets from an investment standpoint? Who will receive those assets and when? All of our client’s goals differ depending on their own circumstances.

We can help you finish strong and ensure that the family and assets that you have spent a lifetime protecting are taken care of after you have passed.

Preparing Your Estate

Estate planning also involves planning for potential disability and incapacity, which can leave an individual exposed to the Court’s appointment of someone else to control the assets or medical needs of an individual. Proper planning allows a person to identify the best individual who can assist in the event of disability and also to provide parameters and instructions to that individual.

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Russell Law typically recommends the preparation of three documents for every person regardless of circumstances: a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Healthcare. A client’s family situation or financial picture may make it advantageous to consider additional documents as well, such as trusts or business entities.

The estate planning lawyers at Russell Law are experienced in using advanced planning techniques to minimize taxes while transferring assets to family and future generations. Our primary goal is to understand what you want, and then to tailor a plan to make that happen as efficiently as possible. 

Ken Russell  was recently quoted in a Barron’s article on “Power of Attorney Dangers” 

How to Select an Estate Planning Attorney?

First, it is important to find a lawyer or firm who specializes in Estate planning.  But, how to find that individual and firm?

Start out by asking friends, family, or colleagues for a “referral.”  Referrals are the best way most people can screen professional services. Ask trusted individuals in your family and social circle about a trustworthy lawyer.

Some of the best referral sources are accountants and financial advisors.  These two professions are involved in similar areas to estate planning lawyers and typically have a “go-to” person who has assisted their clients multiple times.  But, in addition to knowing persons who have had good experiences, an accountant and financial advisor will also be able to judge the lawyer’s “professional competence” and ensure that the attorney’s competency is a match to a client’s needs. Also, attorneys who practice in other areas can help. They will know lawyers who specialize in trusts and estates.

Once an individual has a number of potential lawyers, internet research is a good way to further review the names, double-check certifications and social proof and see if there is a particular fit.

Finally, after identifying some names and doing some background research, you might want to talk to the lawyer yourself. We would recommend calling the lawyer to discuss their approach to estate planning, the process for estate planning, and their firm generally.

What Do I Ask an Estate Planning Attorney?

Here are a few important questions to ask an Estate Planning Attorney.  There are many potential questions depending upon a client’s circumstances, but these are some of the most common:

1. How does an estate plan help me during my lifetime?

2. How do I select persons who make medical or financial decisions for me if I am unable to make those decisions myself?

3. Can a person that I designated as my Power of Attorney just take my money?

4. What are some protections that I can put in my Power of Attorney to make sure that my Agent is handling my affairs properly?

5. What are the consequences if I don’t make a Medical Directive or a Power of Attorney?

6. Is a Power of Attorney effective after I die?

7. If I don’t draft a Will, how does my estate get distributed?

8. What taxes are imposed upon a Pennsylvania resident and how can I minimize those taxes?

9. Do all my assets pass through the Will?

10. What happens to assets that I own jointly with another?

11. What happens to beneficiary designated assets?

12. Who pays the taxes associated with my estate.

13. Who oversees assets for children under 18?

14. Who oversees assets for a child with special needs?

15. What is the role of an Executor?

16. What is a trust?

17. What are the three roles associates with a trust?

18. What is the difference between a Revocable Trust or Irrevocable Trust?

19. What is Probate? Is it important to avoid Probate?

20. How is a Revocable Trust used as a Will substitute?

21. Is a Revocable Trust appropriate for my circumstances?

22. What happens if I need nursing home care, how can that impact upon me and my estate?

23. What is Medicaid?

24. Is there a way that I can plan for a nursing home so my children or beneficiaries can receive my estate?

What is the Estate Planning Process?

Russell Law typically has a three-meeting process to complete a client’s estate plan.

Prior to our first meeting, we send the client a “First Meeting Letter.”  The “First Meeting Letter” is meant to discuss a “basic estate plan” which is composed of three documents: (1) an Advance Directive for Health Care; (2) a Durable Power of Attorney; and (3) a Last Will & Testament.  Everyone gets a basic estate plan regardless of their family situation or their assets.  In addition, the First Meeting Letter requests family and asset information to permit our firm to be as prepared as possible to meet you.

First Meeting – Our firm’s first meeting is designed to explain estate planning and the documents which comprise an estate plan and to secure information about a client’s family and financial situation. 

Once we understand the client’s unique situation, we discuss the estate planning documents and request our client make some choices about their estate plan.  Those choices enable our firm to get together with our estate planning team and draft the initial plan.

Phone Final – Our “Phone Final” typically occurs one or two weeks after our “First Meeting” and is intended to review the client’s situation, the estate planning documents that we discussed at our first meeting and the choices that the client made during the first meeting. 

The Phone Final is designed to make sure that our firm has everything right and that the client has all their questions answered which puts us in the best position to have an execution meeting.

Execution Meeting – We do not begin the Execution Meeting until getting an understanding of the client, their estate planning documents, and their unique choices, as stated in the documents. Then we double-check those matters from our Phone Final, and we meet with clients to review the documents that we drafted.

The Execution Meeting’s purpose is to explain those documents to the clients and to ensure that the written document matches exactly with the client’s estate plan design that was discussed in our first two meetings.

Usually, everything matches, but every now and then a client may “tweak” their plan at this meeting and we then make the necessary change during this meeting.

The three-meeting process has been a tried and true process for our firm over the years and ensures the best possible design for the plan. It also makes sure that the client is fully educated on the plan and purpose behind it.

What are the Benefits of Estate Planning?

The benefit of estate planning is for an individual to protect himself or herself during their lifetime, then, after they die, to protect their families and assets.

Estate planning is a critical part of life.  Everyone is born, everyone must die.  An individual spends a lifetime building a life, taking care of family, and loved ones, working, and accumulating assets or wealth.

Estate planning is first and foremost designed to take care of an individual during their lifetime. It makes sure that a plan is in place so that family members or loved ones are designated to assist the individual in their time of need and to potentially use that individual’s assets or wealth during their lifetime. 

Without basic estate planning if an individual is disabled, a Court will decide who takes care of their medical decision or assets. So, an estate plan is of critical importance to take care of that individual during their lifetime.

After a person passes away, an estate plan is necessary to ensure the orderly transfer of that person’s assets to their beneficiaries.  A person needs to be named to oversee the process – an executor.  A good estate plan will minimize the costs of Probate or the transferring of those assets in terms of taxes and other costs associated with that process. 

A good estate plan can provide for beneficiaries who may not be able to take care of money or who needs assistance (such as a special needs child).  In addition, a good estate plan may have asset protection features to protect a person’s bequeathed assets from their beneficiaries divorcing spouse or creditors.   Importantly, a good estate plan makes sure that a person’s passing is a time for the family to come together and to eliminate or minimize any family conflicts.

What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

The executor of a Will (or the Administrator when there is no Will) is charged with the proper administration of the estate which is comprised of the following functions:

1. An identification of all of the estate assets

2. Protecting all of those assets during the administration

3. The identification and notice of the estate beneficiaries

4. The identification of debts and estate creditors

5. The payment of estate taxes, which may include income taxes, fiduciary taxes and state and federal estate taxes; and

6. The distribution of the net estate to the beneficiaries to conclude the process.

The Executor has a fiduciary responsibility to the estate, its creditors and beneficiaries. Russell Law assists Executors to ensure that they are able to navigate the estate administration process and adhere to the rules concerning the administration and to ensure the discharge of their fiduciary duties including final payments to the beneficiaries.

How Much Does an Estate Have to be Worth to go to Probate?

The answer to this question is – it depends.  Only an experienced estate administration lawyer can discuss the merits of each situation.

Simply put, probate is a process to take an asset that belongs to a person who has passed away and to transfer that asset to another person (beneficiary). The person who passed away wants the beneficiary to have that asset, no matter how small.

When an estate is solvent and there is an even a smaller amount of money, say $1,000 in the estate, the estate can be administered in a way that the beneficiary receives some of that money even after paying the fees and taxes associated with the probate process.

Even insolvent estates can have a reason to probate, like wrapping up a person’s affairs in the best way possible.  Certain insolvent estates are administered because a loved one or friend wants to make sure that person’s affairs are finished appropriately.

Russell Law's Estate Planning Services

Our Location

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Areas We Serve: Office Locations

Media Office

Our Media office at 1000 N Providence Road is located near the famous Media State Street. 

This office is located between Springfield and Lima.

Call the Media Office: 610-565-9010

russell law office

Huntingdon Valley Office

Our Huntingdon Valley location at 3500 Reading Way is just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Northern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

This office is near Willow Grove and Southampton Pennsylvania. 

Call the Huntingdon Valley Office: 215-914-8112

russell law huntingdon valley office

Areas We Serve

Russell Law serves the entire state of Pennsylvania, but it’s easiest to reach us in person from the following locations: Huntingdon Valley, Media, Bryn Mawr, Villanova, Wayne, Malvern, Bala Cynwyd, Radnor, Lower Merion Estate Planning, Devon, Berwyn, Overbrook, Ardmore, Haverford, Wynnewood, Narberth, Havertown, Springfield, Drexel Hill, Abington, Willow Grove, Horsham, Southampton, Feasterville-Trevose, Warminster, Hatboro, Fort Washington