Like brothers who favor rival football teams, my colleague Matt Landis and I often spar over our respective technological preference for Apple vs. Google/Windows/Microsoft. Generally, I think of this as just that, a pair of rival paths.

Imagine my surprise when Matt sent me this article from Daring Fireball reviewing the Google Pixel 2. I assumed he was egging me on to follow his path of annually upgrading to the latest smartphone. While I do have a first-generation Pixel, I am not feeling the need to upgrade to the latest version. But he was after something much more nefarious… convincing me that our paths were not as different as I assumed. Continue Reading Can’t we all get along?

“I need to avoid probate!”  I can’t tell you how many new estate planning consultations begin with questions relating to the belief that it is important to avoid the probate process.  Clients desiring to avoid probate often ask for a complex and costly estate plan.  When I first started practicing, I couldn’t figure out where this fear came from.  But a quick search of the internet provides some insight.  Countless articles, books, and lectures tout the importance of avoiding probate like it is some poison laced process that only the strong survive. Continue Reading Myth #5- I need to avoid probate!

Short-term vacation home rentals – such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and others – are becoming more and more common today.  They are present not only in traditional vacation spots such as the Poconos, but more and more in every kind of neighborhood.  Many of these short-term rentals are happening in relatively “normal” suburban or urban communities.  Very often, these neighborhoods are not equipped to deal with vacationing out-of-towners using, and all too frequently abusing, one of their neighbor’s homes every week.  So the question remains “are these short-term rentals violations?”  Continue Reading Are Short-Term Rentals Permitted In Your Neighborhood?

I have served on the Board of Directors of the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum for the past five years and have had the privilege of serving as Board President for the last two years. As you might imagine, I really enjoy this Lancaster County hidden gem, so as we prepare for Lancaster’s Extraordinary Give I thought it might be nice to share a few fun facts you might not know (even if you live down the street): Continue Reading Fun Facts about the Landis Valley Museum

Many technology enthusiasts subscribe to the theory that to appear on the cutting edge they need to always upgrade to the latest version. The latest software patch, the latest device, etc. I, on the other hand, have always felt like an upgrade needed to give me something (although when I do make a move I tend to spend more than your average bear doing so). Continue Reading Yes, the “Feel” of Your Technology Matters

If myths 1 through 3 haven’t convinced you that you need a Will, perhaps this one will.  At more than one networking event or social gathering, I’ve been cornered by someone who thinks they have found a way to “game the system.”  Often times, this master plan includes putting everything in joint names with their spouse, parents, or children in order to avoid inheritance tax and probate.  Unfortunately, this “solution” doesn’t accomplish the tax goals, and creates a lot of pitfalls that might not make avoiding probate worth it.

For more on inheritance tax and probate, stay tuned for myth 5 and 6.  If the solution is to put everything in joint names with your spouse, that will actually avoid probate and due to the 0% inheritance tax rate for a spouse, there is no inheritance tax due either.  But what happens when the surviving spouse dies or if you die in a joint accident?  This solution, if it works, will only work once.  I don’t know about you, but that is not good enough for me to consider this a viable solution.

Putting assets in joint names with your parents or children can create a Pandora’s box of problems.  Once you put an asset in joint names with someone else, you lose complete control over the asset.  You own your house free and clear.  You decide to put it in joint names with your son Billy.  When you put it in joint names, you tell Billy this is only for estate planning purposes and nothing else.  Billy may or may not decide to follow that.  The law doesn’t care why you put it in joint names, but now that you did, Billy is part owner of your house.  He has the same control over that you do.  Even if Billy agrees that the house in in joint names for estate planning purposes only, it opens the house up to Billy’s creditors.  If Billy runs up substantial debts, your house that you own free and clear can be considered an available resource to pay Billy’s debts now that you put it in joint names.

Still on the fence about whether putting assets in joint names without consulting an attorney is a good idea?  Let’s say you transfer your house into joint names with Billy and two years later you need to qualify for Medicaid benefits.  Your transfer of the house into joint names would be considered a transfer not for fair market value within the five year look back period.  This creates a penalty period during which you are ineligible for Medicaid benefits.  This applies to other assets as well.  If you are considering transfer assets for whatever reason and are even remotely close to needed to plan for Medicaid assistance, it is a good idea to consult an attorney to ensure you are not inadvertently making yourself ineligible for services.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.

In my post yesterday about The Extraordinary Give, I mentioned that each participating organization must be a 501(c)(3) organization. If you’re anything like me, you may have wondered – how did those organizations get to be a 501(c)(3)?

I’m glad you asked: here’s an overview of the typical process of starting a community benefit organization in Pennsylvania. Continue Reading How to Start a Community Benefit Organization in Pennsylvania

The 6th annual Extraordinary Give is coming soon: this year on Friday, November 17, 2017 from midnight to 11:59 pm, you’ll be able to support the community benefit organizations that you love by donating with your dollars. In addition to benefiting from your donations, there are several additional prizes that the participating organizations will be eligible to win.

Hosted by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, the Extraordinary Give is Lancaster County’s largest day of charitable giving, and over the past five years, over 500 organizations have benefitted from the event, with more than $22.5 million in total donations.

To learn more about the Extraordinary Give, check out their website here: extragive.org. There, you can browse the participating community benefit organizations by category or see a full list of all participating organizations. On November 17, you can keep track of all donations in real time on The Extraordinary Give Leaderboard. Continue Reading Save the Date: The Extraordinary Give is Next Friday, November 17, 2017

This is a big one among couples with kids from previous relationships.  People come in and say they want to leave everything to their spouse and then their kids.  Often time people think they can control what happens to their belongings after their surviving spouse dies through a basic Will. Continue Reading Myth #3- When my spouse dies, my kids get what is left.

In many cases, an association will seek a Court Order to enforce its rules and regulations.  In those cases, the association asks a Judge to order the unit owner to stop doing something that they are not allowed to do, or to make some sort of change to comply with association governing documents or rules and regulations.  Since the association is asking the Judge to require a specific behavior, it needs to be sure that it asks for exactly what it wants.  Continue Reading Associations Should Be Careful What They Ask For