Q: I am an adult only-child (age 42), and my retired mother (age 68) has no blood relatives other than me. If I were to pass before her, I want her to be protected financially. I currently have her as the sole beneficiary to one of my life insurance policies and one of my investment accounts. My husband is the beneficiary of all other insurance policies and financial assets. For estate planning purposes, what is a good vehicle to consider, for securing that the assets that are designated for my mother provide not only a secure income but also cover basic needs that may arise (ex: home, medical care, long term care, transportation)? (Cranberry Township, PA)
A: A complicated question which cannot be answered without much more information including your mother’s health, the value and structure of her assets, her income, your health, your husband’s health and the value and structure of your assets, etc. It would generally be inadvisable to leave these assets directly to her via the testate process or non-probate succession given her age, especially if she has health issues. The consequences could result in ineligibility for Medicaid and VA benefits, if applicable. A revocable living trust with beneficiary designations aligned with the planning is generally advisable. Again, seek a consultation with an attorney.
Q: Father opened a bank account in his name only in 1974. He was divorced in 1981. The bank account was not mentioned in divorce. He remarried in 1982. He died in 1998. Who does the account belong to? the first wife, current widow or kids? Father opened bank account in his name only in 1974 and he was divorced in 1981. The bank account was not mentioned in divorce. He remarried in 1982. Died in 1998. Who does the account belong to, the first wife, current widow or kids?
A: If he has a will, it goes to the person or persons in the will. If he excludes his widow, she can elect to take against the will. If he has no will, his estate will pass through intestate succession in PA which means the wife get s the first $30,000.00 and the balance is shared between her and the children. If this is any amount of money worth fighting for, I would consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Q:I have heard that if I die without a will, the government takes all of my money and property and my heirs receive nothing. Is this correct?
A: Absolutely not, but you would be surprised how many people think so. If you have a valid will at the time of your death, your property and money will pass to whom you name as heirs in the will. This is of course after all estate taxes and expenses are paid. If you die without a will, your property and money will pass according to PA laws of intestate succession, which means Pennsylvania decides what portion of your property passes between your surviving heirs. The other degree of control over your estate that you lose by not having a will is that without a will there is no named Executor and therefore, if not otherwise agreed upon by your heirs, the court decides between your surviving heirs who should be in charge of your estate. In some cases this can lead to a family feud in probate court.