In Pennsylvania, you are not required to hire a lawyer for probate, but the process can be complex and time-consuming. To ensure all your legal bases are covered and required petitions and forms are filed in a timely manner, seeking the counsel of experienced probate and estate lawyers can be extremely helpful. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to hire an attorney, such as the lack of a will, size of an estate and guardianship of minor children.
How Do I Start The Probate Process?
To initiate the probate process, a petition must be filed with the Pennsylvania Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided. For example, if your loved one lived in Media, hiring Delaware County lawyers who are familiar with the local courts may help make the process run more smoothly. Jointly owned assets, certain types of trusts and assets such as life insurance or IRA’s with beneficiary designations may not have to go through probate. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you on which assets must be included in probate.
Common Issues Involved In Probate
Even if a will is deemed valid, a beneficiary may attempt to contest it during the probate process. If a valid will is not in place at the time of a decedent’s passing, the probate process can be complicated. The estate must pass through Intestacy laws, and property is given to those who are entitled to it under the Pennsylvania Intestacy statute (typically the surviving spouse and children of the decedent); not according to the decedent’s wishes.
If there is no executor, an administrator will be appointed by the probate court to handle the estate. It is vital to keep in mind that the court also has the authority to designate a guardian for minor children if there is no will. Creating a will with a practiced attorney for wills and trusts can ensure that your legacy lives on and your children are taken care of according to your wishes.
Depending on the complexity of an estate, probate may involve extensive administrative paperwork and litigation. It is essential to understand exactly which fees and taxes must be paid, and when. The probate process is very time-sensitive, and a skilled attorney will make sure all deadlines are met to keep the process running smoothly.
There are additional circumstances that may affect probate, including:
Complicated tax situations, such as unpaid taxes
Ambiguities in a will
Disputed claims by beneficiaries
Someone contesting an executor’s appointment
Issues with disputed debts or unfinished contracts
Property bequeathed to minors who do not have an appointed guardian or trustee
The estate’s assets do not cover all debts
Out-of-state property included in the estate
A very large estate with diversified assets
Estate planning lawyers can take some of these burdens off of an executor’s or administrator’s shoulders. The process of sorting out an estate can be very emotional, and creating wills and trusts ahead of time can help your family avoid unnecessary conflict and stress. To learn more about estate planning and probate, contact our experienced Delaware and Chester County lawyers to schedule a consultation today.
Many people believe that estate planning only involves creating a Will to ensure your wishes are carried out upon your passing. Although a Will is an essential part of the process, there are many other things to consider when you are thinking about the legacy you want to leave behind. There are different types of trusts that can protect your assets and make sure your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. A Living Trust is among the most common.
What is a Living Trust?
A Living Trust is a legal document that places your assets in trust for your benefit during your lifetime, and spells out how you’d like these assets to be distributed upon your death. It can include bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles and valuable personal property. The most common type is a Revocable Living Trust, which may be changed or canceled at any time before your death.
How does a Living Trust work?
You name yourself as the trustee and remain in complete control of your assets, and may move them in and out of the trust as you wish. You also appoint a ‘successor trustee’ who will act as your representative upon your passing and transfer assets to your beneficiaries according to your wishes.
Your successor trustee is permitted to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. He or she can handle financial issues such as managing property, businesses and paying bills. Such details are outlined in a living trust and can be carried out without involvement by the courts. Experienced living trusts lawyers can create a document that covers all legal bases and help your loved ones avoid costly and inconvenient court proceedings.
Why do I need a living trust?
In most states, a Will must go through probate, which can be a long and arduous legal process. The probate processinvolves establishing the value of your estate, settling any debts, paying taxes and transferring assets to your beneficiaries. Probate adds extra expenses to your estate and delays the distribution of your assets. It can take nine months to two years for probate to be completed. Our Chester County lawyers and Delaware County lawyers are well-versed in drafting wills and trusts, but if your estate must go through the probate process, our seasoned attorneys can provide your family with the legal support they need.
Another advantage of a Living Trust is privacy. A Will is a public document, which means that anyone can scrutinize or contest it, including creditors. Probate also allows the public to see the details of your estate. A living trust is private, more difficult to challenge, and can help to protect your assets from creditors. A living trust is particularly valuable if you have a large amount of assets, and can keep family matters from becoming complicated after you’re gone.
Knowing that the process of settling your estate will be easier for your beneficiaries can give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out appropriately. Our skilled legal team provides estate planning services tailored to fit your individual needs. To learn more about the services we offer, contact Carosella & Associates today!
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are responsible for handling his or her estate. You may have questions about what is involved, whether the estate will go through probate and a multitude of other issues.
Most estates in Pennsylvania must go through probate, the legal process that determines the value of the estate, transfers assets to beneficiaries, and ensures that the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid.
Educating yourself about how the probate process works can help to ease burden of conflict within your family and the financial issues you may be facing after a loved one has passed away. Experienced probate attorneys can help you sort out the details of the estate and make the probate process easier and less stressful for you and your family.
Questions to Ask a Probate Lawyer
Before hiring a probate attorney, it is vital to ask these important questions:
1. Is probate an area of practice for you?
Many estate planning and wills and trusts lawyers are experienced in handling probate cases. When seeking an attorney, it’s advisable to ask the following questions to get a feel for how experienced he or she is.
2. Are you familiar with the court to which my case will be assigned?
Hiring an attorney who has experience in the court where your probate case will be heard can speed up the process and make it run more smoothly. Our attorneys in Chester and Delaware County, PA have years of experience in local probate court, can help you avoid delays and ensure all paperwork is correctly completed and filed.
3. What is your strategy for my case? Are there any potential issues such as tax implications that could arise in my case?
A skilled probate attorney will assess your situation and share a strategy that helps you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
4. How long do you think it will take to complete?
Probate can take anywhere from nine months to two years. Although there are no guarantees on how long probate proceedings will take, your lawyer should be able give you an estimate based on the facts of your case.
5. Will you handle my case personally?
It is common for lawyers to pass some work on to associates, paralegals and other law firm staff. It’s very important to feel comfortable about who you will be working with—ask if you can meet others who may be working on your case. It’s also a good idea to find out their availability and response time if you need to discuss important developments or get a status update.
5. What is your fee structure?
Ask the attorney about how they charge and approximately how much you should expect to pay for services. Attorneys may charge a flat fee or hourly rate. It’s also important to find out if there are fees for phone calls and other legal professionals who may spend time speaking with you and working on your case. If the attorney charges a flat fee, ask how you will be charged if the matter turns out to be more complicated than anticipated. Getting an estimate of court costs can also be helpful.
Filing bankruptcy can help you reduce or eliminate debt, halt actions that creditors have taken against you and allow you to get your finances back on track. There are several different types of bankruptcy, and a skilled attorney can guide you on the most effective path to achieving a beneficial outcome for your financial situation.
The two most popular types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 7-10 years, but your credit can be repaired by making responsible choices and remaining vigilant about properly managing your finances going forward.
Filing bankruptcy can put a halt to:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for consumers who are having financial difficulties but do not have the resources to pay their existing debts. Chapter 7 is best for lower-income debtors who have unsecured debt such as credit cards or medical bills.
When you file for Chapter 7, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee will determine if you have any non-exempt property that can be sold to pay your creditors. He or she will also check to see if any recent financial transactions can be undone to repay your creditors as much as possible of what you owe them. If you do not possess any non-exempt assets such as cash or other valuable items, your creditors will not receive compensation for your debts.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a total restructuring of debt for consumers who are behind on secured debts such as home mortgages and car loans. Debtors typically have enough income to pay back at least a portion of their debts through a repayment plan. The goal of Chapter 13 is to resume regular monthly payments and pay arrears over time.
Chapter 13 allows you to catch up on missed mortgage or car payments and possibly reduce payment amounts without forfeiting these assets. Creditors must be repaid within a period of five years. Once a repayment plan is successfully completed under Chapter 13, creditors cannot require you to pay them in full.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is typically filed by businesses, but individuals can file under Chapter 11 if they exceed the debt or income limits under Chapters 7 and 13.
Filing for Bankruptcy
Before you file for bankruptcy, it is essential to sit down and itemize your sources of income, major financial transactions, monthly living expenses, and all debts, assets and property. Gather all loan or mortgage documents, recent tax returns and deeds and titles to any real estate or vehicles you own.
Once you have collected this information, local bankruptcy lawyers can help you determine which assets are exempt from seizure. The attorney will file a petition and several other required forms at your Pennsylvania district bankruptcy court.
There are many different factors that must be taken into account when you consider filing for bankruptcy. Carosella & Associates’ seasoned legal team includes some very experienced bankruptcy lawyers in Pennsylvania. Our experienced lawyers will assess your case and guide you through the process every step of the way. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.
Having an attorney you can rely on is essential for open communication and to build trust. From business succession planning to intellectual property law, the skilled attorneys at Carosella & Associates have extensive experience in many facets of business law, and our business lawyers will work hard to protect your interests and help your small business thrive.
Our Legal Services
To protect both your personal and business interests, legal assistance with the drafting of documents such as corporate by-laws, stockholders agreements, and other types of contracts is vital. Our business lawyers are experienced in drafting documents such as license and royalty agreements, trademark and copyright registration, the sale and transfer of intellectual property and more.
Our attorneys provide many different professional legal services for businesses, and can assist you with:
Commercial and residential real estate and zoning issues
Mergers and acquisitions
Formation of business entities and partnerships
Intellectual property law
Business succession planning
Litigation avoidance strategies
Litigation Avoidance Strategies
Regardless of your organization’s size or reputation, managing your business requires practical solutions. One of the most important services we provide is to help clients incorporate litigation avoidance strategies into their business planning, which can help you prevent legal problems before they start.
Settlement and Litigation
Sometimes legal issues are impossible to avoid, and our attorneys are committed to using their skills and experience to provide our clients personalized, professional legal representation. The business lawyers at Carosella & Associates, P.C. have successfully negotiated and settled thousands of cases for businesses in many different types of matters.
Providing counsel, outlining options, suggesting strategies, reviewing documents and protecting your interests are critical elements of our legal services. Regardless of the legal issues you may be facing, we can create and provide your small business with a Customized Business Litigation Plan that includes: a Case Budget; a Litigation Plan; a Discovery Plan; a List of Alternative Options; and an Estimate of Time, Costs and Options at every stage. Our attentive legal team will listen to your concerns and use our combined legal skills to provide advice in sensible terms that are easy to comprehend.
Legal Professionals You Can Trust
Our practiced and professional legal staff is committed to client confidentiality. We value the trust our clients put in us, and believe in using objective and independent judgment consistent with the highest ethical standards. In addition to offering legal counsel in business matters, our firm’s attorneys offer specialized assistance in the areas of estate planning, wills & trusts, probate, bankruptcy, family law, immigration, real estate and criminal matters as well.
Helping you find the right solutions for your business and protecting your interests is our top priority. Carosella & Associates’ experienced lawyers are dedicated to providing quality legal services that meet our small business clients’ needs. Our responsive team of legal professionals will be there for you when you need us. If you are in need of diligent, conscientious and practical legal services, please contact our lawyers in West Chester, PA or Montgomerycounty today!
Going through a divorce can be an overwhelming and complex process. If you are considering divorce, there are steps you can take ahead of time that can make the process less stressful and help you stay organized and focused.
Manage Your Finances
It is important to start putting money aside so you can pay your legal fees and living expenses on a single income. If you are working, deposit all or part of your paycheck into a separate account that your spouse cannot access. Keep track of finances such as your income, your spouse’s income, household expenses, assets and debts.
Reduce unnecessary spending. Refrain from splurging on items you don’t need or making large purchases while you are preparing for a divorce.
If possible, close joint accounts. Typically, both parties on a joint account must give the bank permission to close it. If your spouse agrees, close joint bank accounts and split the money. If you have credit cards together, either cancel them or remove one person from the account. Be sure to keep copies of all bank statements, credit card statements, pay stubs, tax returns and investment and retirement account statements.
Keep these vital documents in a safe place away from your home, as documentation of all your finances will be very important for your attorney. Open a safe deposit box in your name or store them at a trusted friend’s or family member’s home. Meet with a financial professional such as an accountant or financial planner. He or she can help you prepare for the economic impact of your divorce.
Prepare for Custody Disputes
Document everything regarding your children in writing. Note which parent takes them to appointments and attends activities such as sports games, recitals and other extracurricular activities. Get records from your children’s school that show who attends parent-teacher conferences and other school functions. Documenting these things will show how involved you are in your children’s lives.
Unless there is violence in the home, stay with your children until your divorce is finalized. If there have been any incidents involving the police or child protective services, get copies of all reports. Drug & alcohol and psychological evaluations may also help to determine why your spouse is ill-equipped to take custody of your children. Store these documents in a safe place. They will be an integral part of determining custody.
Take Care of Yourself
Find a therapist and see him or her regularly. It may be a good idea to have your kids to speak to a child therapist as well. This type of support is essential for your emotional well-being and can help your children get through the divorce process with minimal stress.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to begin. Struggling with debt can make it seem like you are powerless, but it is possible to take that weight off your shoulders and achieve your financial goals.
One of the aims of bankruptcy is to wipe out certain debts to give an individual a fresh financial start. Depending on your situation, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the right option for you.
What’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Most individual bankruptcies filed are Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 cases. With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, only your non-exempt assets are used to repay debt. If you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must repay at least a portion of your debt.
Your income, assets, debts, and financial goals all play a part in determining which type of bankruptcy is the best choice for your circumstances. Consulting with a bankruptcy attorney who knows the ins and outs of bankruptcy law can help you come to a decision that best fits your needs.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy that is designed to get rid of unsecured debts such as medical bills and credit cards. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is typically for debtors with few assets who want to wipe out unsecured debts.
When you file for Chapter 7, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee will determine if you have any nonexempt property to sell for the benefit of creditors. He or she will also review recent financial transactions to see if any can be undone to free up assets to repay to your creditors. The trustee will ensure that your non-exempt property is sold to pay creditors as much as possible of what you owe them. If you do not own any non-exempt assets, your creditors will not receive anything. Typically, a seasoned Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney will be able to protect most, if not all of your assets and all of the unsecured debts will be discharged.
Although there is no homestead exemption in Pennsylvania, Chapter 7 allows consumers to use federal exemptions that protect up to $23,675 of home equity. If you are married filing jointly you may double this exemption. If you are married, jointly held property cannot be taken to satisfy the individual debts of one spouse.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
If you make too much money or have considerable non-exempt assets to qualify for Chapter 7, you may have no choice but to file Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Also called a wage earners plan, Chapter 13 is a reorganization bankruptcy designed for debtors with enough income to pay back at least a portion of their debts over a span of three to five years.
It is similar to a consolidation loan in which you make payments to a trustee, who then pays creditors. However, it is interest free and often a much lower payment than if you were outside of bankruptcy. Chapter 13 can protect your home from foreclosure, allow you to catch up on missed mortgage payments and give you the opportunity pay off debts such as spousal or child support arrears.
Whether you are considering filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, there are many advantages and drawbacks to consider. Our experienced attorneys in West Chester will assess your case and help you determine the best course of action to take. For more information, contact Carosella & Associates to schedule a consultation.
Victims of domestic violence often feel helpless, trapped and alone. They may stay with an abuser due to of a lack of resources, issues of custody or fear of retribution if they leave. Enlisting the counsel of an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of the court system can help you break the cycle of violence and be an advocate for you and your family.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetime.
A domestic violence attorney can assess your case and help you determine the best course of action to take. Before your consultation, sit down and write a list of things you’d like to discuss and questions to ask. If possible, it may also help to write down all incidences of violence, the circumstances and dates that they occurred. Be open and honest with your lawyer. Your attorney is there to advocate for you and needs to know the facts of the case to make strategic decisions, such as specific evidence to present or selecting witnesses to testify on your behalf.
A domestic violence attorney can help in many ways, including:
Get a temporary or permanent protective order in place. In Pennsylvania, victims of domestic violence can seek a protection from abuse order that may prohibit the abuser from making contact or coming within a certain distance of the victim. In certain situations, a protective order can also require that the abuser move out of a home shared with the victim. Each county has its own filing procedure, so having an attorney who is familiar with the local courtscan be a lifesaver.
File a domestic violence lawsuit. Your lawyer can file a civil lawsuit that allows you to recover any medical expenses, financial loss, or pain and suffering caused by your abuser..
File for divorce. If the perpetrator is a spouse, a family law attorney can assist you through the divorce process, including seeking spousal support and receiving your share of marital assets.
Get custody of your children. If the abuser is also a parent of your children, an attorney can help you get custody as well as child support from the other parent.
Represent you in court. A domestic violence attorney will file required documents and be your advocate in court.
Communicate with the defendant (or his or her attorney). Your lawyer will also communicate and negotiate with the defendant throughout the legal process so you do not have to deal with any more abuse or conflict.
Suffering abuse at the hands of a loved one is a traumatic and life-changing experience. Our experienced and compassionate attorneys located in West Chester will be there to support you every step of the way, fight for your rights and help you protect your family.
If you or someone you love is a victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).