“Irrevocable Trust” sounds so formal and intimidating. Also, there are two very different pronunciations. Regardless of how you pronounce “irrevocable,” it can be intimidating if you are not properly advised during the drafting process. When a person creates an irrevocable trust, they relinquish ownership and control of the assets they are transferring to the trust. The assets are then controlled by the Trustee appointed in the trust document. The Trustee must control those assets in accordance with the rules outlined in the trust document. It is crucial that you are satisfied with the trust document before signing it, because unlike a revocable trust which can be amended at will in most cases, there are only a few limited circumstances where an irrevocable trust can be amended or terminated. Continue Reading Revocable versus Irrevocable Trusts

Next to a Testamentary Trust created for the protection of minor’s assets, the most commonly requested trust is a revocable trust. A revocable trust can be a great tool if you need a little more control over assets, have property in different states, or have some more complex estate planning considerations. However, there are some drawbacks to a revocable trust as well. Continue Reading Is a Revocable Trust Right for Me?

What is a trust and why do I need one? A trust is a great estate planning tool when used effectively and in the right situation. But most people know very little about trusts and often times think their estate does not warrant a trust. Over the next several posts, I hope to provide more information about trusts in general and help you decide if a trust is something worth considering.

When dealing with a trust, it can seem like the document is speaking another language. Below is a quick primer of terms commonly used in conjunction with trusts. After all you can’t decide if a trust is right for you if you don’t know what it says. Continue Reading Basic Trust Terminology

In a prior blog post, I explained that divorce cases here in Lancaster county are heard by Divorce Masters instead of Judges. Because the proceedings before the Master will be the only chance you have to present your case, it is important to understand the process.

Your lawyer will appoint a Divorce Master with a Motion with the Court.  Once appointed, the Master will hear the claims that you have raised which may include claims for the distribution of property and/or alimony. When a Master is appointed, a telephone conference is scheduled with the lawyers. The Master will deal with procedural issues and determine if the case is ready to move forward or whether there are any impediments to moving ahead such as disputes about the date of separation or missing discovery.

Discovery is the legal term for the gathering and sharing of necessary information to move a case forward. Your lawyer will ask you for information about your assets and income and may need to seek valuations of those assets by outside parties (such as real estate and pension appraisers). If you want a good outcome, you should prioritize getting your lawyer all of the information that he or she is asking for. It may seem burdensome, but since this is your only opportunity to present evidence, it is worthwhile to provide as much information as possible on the assets and incomes involved. This may require inquiries to the bank, to your accountant or even to your human resources department, but all of your efforts will matter very much to your case. Continue Reading Anatomy of a Divorce Case in Lancaster County

As a prior Divorce Master, I witnessed a lot of confusion from clients about the Divorce Master process. During one of my more contentious cases, I overheard a litigant talking to his attorney during a break, and he asked: “When will I get a hearing with a real Judge?” Clearly he was disgruntled about how the case was going, but it’s a fair question. And the answer here in Lancaster County is that you won’t–  your Divorce case will be heard by a Divorce Master, not a Judge.

In most counties in Pennsylvania (including here in Lancaster), divorce cases are heard and decided by Masters instead of Judges. Divorce Masters are court appointed officials, and they have jurisdiction to decide issues of property distribution and alimony. In Lancaster County, Divorce Masters serve as the finders of fact for the case. In practical terms, that means that the proceedings before the Divorce Master will be the only opportunity you will have to present your full case. So, be prepared and take it seriously. Continue Reading What is a Divorce Master?

Thank you to everyone who attended the first of three estate planning conversations Russell, Krafft & Gruber is hosting in Ephrata.  Gary Krafft, Kathy Krafft Miller and I had the pleasure of speaking with several people who wanted to have a better understanding of the estate planning process and the necessary documents.  It was an interactive session and we enjoyed talking with everyone.

Last night we focused on the three estate planning documents for everyone.  If you missed it, you can get a good summary here.  Our next session, on April 25 will be about Wills, Trusts, and determining what is right for you.  Javateas will again be providing excellent coffee and desserts!  If you’re not really sure about trusts and want some more information before our second session, look for some new blog posts in the next two weeks for some basic trust information.  Would you prefer to speak to someone about trusts?  Join us for the second session and you can join the conversation.


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 and Estate Administration.

This is the final installment of the intestate success series.  To see the other installments start here.

If you’ve already read the second post in this series, then you know that the intestate succession can be rather complicated when you leave a surviving spouse and other family members.  But what happens when you don’t have a surviving spouse?  How are assets distributed in those circumstances?  Well, it depends on who survives you. Continue Reading Intestate Laws – When You Do Not Have a Surviving Spouse

Headlines last week detailed the divorce settlement agreement between Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. It was a huge marital estate estimated at 137 billion dollars; the largest asset was Amazon which Jeff Bezos founded during the marriage with help from his Wife MacKenzie.  MacKenzie agreed to accept 25% of the Amazon stock which amounted to about 36 billion in assets. Most of us cannot relate at all, but in reading the details, it occurred to me that there are pertinent lessons to take away from this. In this post, I have highlighted five takeaways that apply even when you are not the founder of Amazon.  I will elaborate on some of these subjects in future blog posts, but for now, here is the Cliffs Notes version:   Continue Reading Five lessons from the Bezos divorce settlement that could apply to your case

Wrestlemania was this past weekend, and Linda McMahon is rumored to be stepping down as the head of the Small Business Administration.  I have a rule that when those two things happen in the same week, it is time to link back to my favorite blog post: How Your Small Business is Like Professional Wrestling.

My son and I are still watching wrestling.  And there are even more lessons you can learn from wrestling.  Here are more to add to the list: Continue Reading Your Small Business is STILL Like Professional Wrestling

Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP is pleased to announce that Julia G. Vanasse (known as “Julie”) has joined the firm’s Family Law practice group. She returns to private practice after serving for almost 20 years as a Lancaster County Divorce Master, where she presided over numerous divorce cases during her tenure. Prior to being appointed by the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas as a Divorce Master, she practiced family law for ten years with a local firm.

Julie received a B.A. in Government and French from the College of William and Mary and earned her J.D. from The Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania State University. With her over 30 years of combined experience in Family Law, Julie brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. She represents clients in all areas of Family Law, including divorce, equitable distribution, alimony, custody, and support. As a long time Divorce Master, Julie distinguished herself for her particular expertise in handling complex and high asset divorce cases. She is well versed in dealing with the unique complexities that these cases often present such as business and professional practice asset values, pension values, and self-employment and business income issues.

Julie firmly believes that the key to serving clients well in the family law matters is with a comprehensive and compassionate approach. She works with each client personally to understand their concerns and goals.   As a litigator, Julie’s style is thorough and tenacious – as anyone who practiced before her can attest, she leaves no stone unturned. As a prior Divorce Master, she has a first-hand understanding of the court process and what strategies get results in litigation. Julie also understands that sometimes the best results are achieved outside of the courtroom and, as a Master, she aided in resolving many cases without a hearing. She brings those same skills in negotiating fair resolutions for clients without the expense, delay and emotional toll of court proceedings.

Julie has called Lancaster her home for over 30 years. She and her husband Mike (also a local attorney) live in East Hempfield where they raised three children. They are now empty nesters unless you count two golden retrievers.