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You may have heard about the new power of attorney legislation that became the law in Pennsylvania in July.  If you have executed a power of attorney or are thinking about executing a power of attorney, you may be wondering how that legislation affects you.

Some of the changes made by the law, such as protecting banks from liability, were effective immediately.  Other changes, such as changes to the Notice and Acknowledgement parts of the power of attorney will become effective January 1, 2015.  Almost every day, new articles appear and professional meetings are held as the various communities such as banks, lawyers and others concerned with estate planning and elder affairs consider the interpretation and implementation of the changes.

If you have a properly executed power of attorney, your power of attorney is valid and will remain valid even after all of the new changes take effect.

Under any circumstances, you should always look at your estate planning documents every few years, or when you have major changes within your family, to ensure that they still reflect your wishes. 

Continue Reading Understanding the Changes for Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania

As you update your Facebook page, have you ever wondered how your beneficiaries could obtain access to your “digital assets” upon your death?  Indeed, could they access your digital assets if you were incapacitated during your lifetime?  Prudent people plan through financial powers of attorney for incapacity during lifetime, or for the disposition of their

The silos, cattle and cornfields along Pennsylvania’s winding roads are a reminder that farming is an integral part of the Commonwealth’s economy. Many of these farms are family businesses that politicians in both parties say they want to help.  Pennsylvania’s legislators came to the aid of farm families a few months ago.  To help ease the burden on Pennsylvania’s 63,000 farm families, there is new legislation that offers relief in the form of an inheritance tax exemption.

The relief is effective for decedents leaving behind family farms whose dates of death fall after June 30, 2012. Section 2111 adds a new exemption to transfers not subject to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax:

(s) A transfer of an agricultural commodity, agricultural conservation easement, agricultural reserve, agricultural use property or a forest reserve, as those terms are defined in Section 2122(a), to lineal decedents or siblings is exempt from inheritance tax. 

Continue Reading Family Farms Freed From Burden of Inheritance Tax

Some say it takes a village to raise a child. Others say it takes a family. I recently became convinced that it takes a law firm to advise a pastor who is administering a church. While preparing to participate in a class on church administration as part of the ministerial formation requirement for students at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, I became convinced that any pastor in a parish setting needs a law firm on call. Anecdotes related by the adjunct professor, the Reverend Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, about her years in the parish ministry further illustrated the need.

Pastors face many decisions in the course of their work, from choosing a form of organization for their church to managing property matters. Depending upon denominational polity and local requirements, pastors face concerns in the buying, selling and mortgaging of real estate in addition to those which an individual or commercial enterprise would encounter. Real estate law and church law such as the United Methodist "trust clause" intersect.

Changes in worship style and advances in technology now necessitate that each pastor become familiar with licensing and permissions. The new intellectual property issues go far beyond the standard church performance exception to copyright law that for many years made such concerns unnecessary. Printing hymns in bulletins, using screen projections, not to mention sharing podcasts and streaming videos, now demand that each pastor become his or her own intellectual property lawyer.

Having some working knowledge of real estate and intellectual property law is hardly enough. In what can be a highly competitive fundraising environment, pastors must also understand the administration of estates and trusts. The more estate planning knowledge pastors have, the more effective they will be in raising funds for their churches.

Continue Reading It Takes a Village: Pastors and the Law

The Hospice of Lancaster County, along with other national, state and community organizations, is leading a new effort to publicize the importance of advance healthcare directives resulting in the formal designation of April 16, 2010 as National Healthcare Decisions Day.

How can you celebrate that day? As a participating organization, Hospice of Lancaster County will be working to educate the Lancaster County community about the importance of advance directives. They will use their Five Wishes, a document that helps people making a living will to express their preferences about end-of-life decision making in a variety of areas. The Five Wishes document will be available in various public libraries throughout the county, as well as at health fairs and expositions.

Continue Reading Tis The Season to Think About Advanced Healthcare Directives

At tax time, many people consider their financial status. Many of us are looking at broker statements for the first time because we have been unwilling to face the bad news. Regardless of how difficult the year has been financially, however, this is an appropriate time to consider looking at your estate planning documents to see whether

The financial tsunami that has passed over us since last September is bringing with it changes in tax laws. Existing law regarding the federal estate tax is surely one of those areas of the law that is bound to reflect the new conditions. Under the so-called Bush tax cuts, the federal estate tax was due to be

A Power of Attorney is a document in which a principal appoints an agent to transact a variety of duties. The "principal" makes the appointment. The "agent" is the person appointed (also called an "attorney-in-fact" or "power of attorney").

The agent has a fiduciary duty to the principal which means that he or she owes the principal

Joint bank accounts created after a decedent makes a will can leave executors to face problems when it comes time to administer the estate. Often these accounts beg the question, "What was the decedent’s intention?" More specifically, did the decedent want to give the surviving party to the account ownership in the balance in the