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Meet Dana S. Wieseman from our Probate Team

Click here to watch.

Dana was Born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. A graduate of Mechanicsburg Area high School in 1987 and Central Penn University in 1993 with a Specialized Business Degree in Legal Assistant. She has been a paralegal since 1993 and has specialized in Probate and Estate Administration since 2000 in the Harrisburg area. She furthered her career in 2020 by becoming a Certified Paralegal. Dana loves estate administration work and takes pride in the relationships that she has formed and the people she has meet over the last 18+ years. Dana is looking forward to continuing her career with Bellomo & Associates.

Dana has been married to Dave for 27 years and they have 2 wonderful kids. Megan, 25 is a teacher in Hilton Head South Carolina and Brian, 21 is in his senior year at Pitt’ and is considering law school. Now that Dana and Dave are empty nesters, you can find them on their farm in Bedford. College football is her favorite sport and has been a long time Alabama Fan. Roll Tide!

Please watch Dana’s video by clicking the picture above. If you would like to learn more about avoiding the probate process, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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Meet Michelle Wheeler from our Probate Team

I essentially work with the executor/administrator/trustee and help them manage the assets and expenses of the decedent.  It’s like taking over a person’s financial life after they have passed.

If we need to probate, I prepare the court documents and set up the appointment to get the executor/administrator appointed.  Once that’s done there is estate/trust advertising, bank accounts to manage, securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) to sell or transfer, life insurance/annuity/retirement claim forms to file, an inheritance tax return needs to be filed 9 months from date of death (tax estimate paid within 3 months of death to get tax discount), bills to be paid, selling or transferring real estate, etc.  Once an appraisement letter is received from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the inheritance tax (6-9 months or longer from the date the return was filed), we can make final distributions and close out the matter.  It is a lengthy and time-consuming process that can be frustrating.  I do my best to make the process as comfortable as I can.

Myths and Mysteries of the Probate Process:

  1. Even if all assets are in trust, joint name or have specific beneficiaries assigned, it’s the same process except for the estate administration. We still have to get date of death confirmation values on all assets, account for all debts and expenses paid and prepare a Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return.  Unfortunately, it is not a quick process.
  2. Depending on the company the amount of paperwork needed to transfer, sell or claim assets can be overwhelming. Please be patient.  Once all claim forms are signed and filed, it can take 10 days to a few weeks for the claim to be reviewed once it is in the company’s computer system.  This is not usually a quick process.
  3. I need the following information to start working on a file: bank statements including decedent’s date of death, current deed on all real estate, investment/brokerage statements including decedent’s date of death, life insurance/annuity/retirement paperwork, copy of most recent personal income tax return, copies of bills paid and/or checks drawn.
  4. Stock certificates should be deposited with a broker or investment service. Stock certificates are like holding cash in your hand.  If the certificate is lost, there is a lost certificate fee to get it reissued.  Please keep your investment safe.
  5. If there is only a bank account with $10,000 or less in the decedent’s name alone on a date of death, a spouse, any child, father or mother, or any sister or brother (preference in that order) can close the account with a copy of the death certificate and the invoice showing the funeral is paid in full. No probate is necessary.

If you would like to learn more about avoiding the probate process, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

 

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Why is it Important to Understand or Learn Probate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

This is a question that we receive all of the time in our office.  The answer is because you could have personal liability as an executor and because there may be ways to avoid probate it if you understand it and plan ahead.

Probate is merely the Commonwealth’s rule book and the process that you must go through if there is an asset in a person’s sole name at the time of their death.  This excludes jointly held accounts and accounts with a beneficiary designation on the account.  Probate is not good or bad.  It is simply the process the Commonwealth requires us to follow in order to properly distribute assets to beneficiaries.  

A personal representative, also known as an executor (or executrix if they are female), if they are named in a Will, or an administrator if they are taking authority under the intestate succession under the statute, are personally liable to the beneficiaries and to the government to properly administer the estate, make certain all debts and expensive of the decedent are paid, pay all inheritance tax and other taxes owed and to distribute the remainder of the assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the Will or the intestate statute.  A personal representative must understand the entire process and all of the legal requirements that the Commonwealth imposes, such as notices to heirs, notices to creditors, advertising of the appointment of a personal representative and filing with the Orphans’ Court, Register of Wills certifications and notices as items are completed or when the estate is complete.  There is also a requirement for a Pennsylvania inheritance tax to be prepared and filed and, in some cases, a fiduciary income tax return as well.  If any of these steps are not properly completed and a beneficiary, a government entity, or a charity receives less money than what they were entitled to there can and will be personal liability imputed on the personal representative.  

It is essential to understand this liability to make a decision as to whether to hire an attorney to assist in the process.  There is very little upside to not hiring a professional but a lot of potential downsides to not doing so, and therefore, typically, it is a much smarter decision to engage an attorney to assist you.

Probate can be avoided by either making an asset jointly owned or designating a beneficiary for that asset.  However, before somebody makes an asset jointly owned or designates beneficiary for an asset they should understand the legal implications of doing so as there may be considerations beyond probate in doing so.  Remember jointly owned assets or assets with designated beneficiaries don’t avoid inheritance tax, only probate is avoided.

If you have any questions concerning probate or whether you need to probate please call the office at (717) 845-5390 or visit our website at www.bellomoassociates.com

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How Can I Avoid Probate? 

Can I avoid probate?

Can I avoid probate?

A week probably does not go by in my estate planning and elder law practice that I do not hear this question.  We spend a lot of time in our weekly workshops in our office answering this question and also much of our time during our free consultations also discussing this in detail.  I believe that the major reason why people make this their primary question is because of a lot of information that is out in the mainstream, the media, from national companies or national spokespeople who often urge people to avoid probate at all costs.  

I was very fortunate several years ago that I was able to travel the country training and teaching lawyers all over the country.  It was an extremely enjoyable experience and I learned and grew tremendously from it.  One of the main things that hit me during my time educating and teaching is that each and every state in the country has very different rules. 

Most attorneys are only licensed in one state and typically do not get licensed in multiple states because of the exams and costs that are associated with it.  It became very clear to me over the years that each state is very different in regards to its probate rules as well as how difficult probate is. 

Many of the national trust companies and national spokespeople live and come out of states where the probate process is very burdensome, overwhelming, arduous, confusing, expensive, and time prohibitive.  In those states, it makes a lot of sense to take steps in order to be able to avoid probate so that their clients do not have to go through those processes and spend the time and cost involved with it. 

Several very good business individuals understood what a valuable opportunity it could be for them to be a spokesperson or to advertise living trusts and other opportunities to avoid probate.  Rather than take the time to research each state’s rules, they make blanket statements and characterizations that seem to apply to every state but in reality do not.   

Yes.  There are certainly ways to avoid probate, and if the situation is correct, we will often make recommendations to do things such as creating a trust or having access jointly owned with another individual or using beneficiary designations on accounts.  In our workshops, we spend a lot of time talking about these and many other opportunities to avoid probate and how to take advantage of them.  

My concern is that without proper advice and guidance, oftentimes these tricks and solutions often aren’t necessary and can be overkill.   

If you are interested or believe that you are interested in avoiding probate for the sake of avoiding probate, please come to one of our upcoming workshops to learn not only about probate but also about the options that we would use to avoid probate and pros and cons with those. 

It is imperative that people be provided good advice in regards to this and any implications and complications that could come from decisions that are made.  Remember, in Pennsylvania avoiding probate does not equate to avoiding inheritance tax. 

If you would like to learn more, please give our office a call at 717-845-5390.   

 

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Does A Life Estate In A Property Have Anything To Do With The Other Assets?

421CFC1F-5C38-4C9C-9255-6EE2C765F6C0I was recently talking to a daughter whose mother had passed away. She told me that her step-father made a comment after the funeral that nothing would be probated or nothing would be changed until after she died.

I started to question the daughter, because I could tell that she had basically just taken his statement as fact and wasn't planning on doing anything at all as a result of the passing of her mother.

I learned pretty quickly that her mom and step-dad each had all of their own assets in their own names alone. The step-father did own a life estate in the property that mom and step-dad had lived in; at his passing, it would go to the daughter.

I explained to the daughter the difference between probate and non-probate assets. A probate asset is an asset that is in the individual's name alone, and upon their passing must go through the probate process according to the terms of their Last Will and Testament to the individuals who are named in the Will. A non-probate asset is an asset that transfers outside of probate, meaning that it transfers by operation of law to the individual, and not through a Will. 

In this particular circumstance, it was clear that the step-dad absolutely had a life estate in the property and was allowed to live in the property during his lifetime, so long as he was not living with another woman. 

However, I did not agree that all of the others assets would just stay where they are. Due to the fact that they were not jointly owned by mom and step-dad, but rather were in the mother's name alone, then they had to go through probate.

When I looked at the mother's will, 100% of her estate went to the daughter. Based on this information, I told the daughter, much to her surprise, that she did need to open an estate as the executrix of the estate, and that 100% of the assets would go to her and not to the step-dad. 

She wanted to know if she needed to give any of those assets to step-dad, and I said, not by law, as your mom provided 100% for you. It seemed obvious to me that mom wanted step-dad to have a place to live, but that otherwise he was able to take care of his own needs.

If you have questions about your family situation join us for one of our upcoming educational workshops.  Just click here to find out more and reserve a spot today.

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