For those of you looking for your weekly myth, sadly, our myth series has run its course.  Now that we have covered commonly asked questions and the top 10 myths, I wanted to leave you with a few helpful tips- these tips are universal and not just for selecting an estate planning attorney.

  • Be open and honest with your lawyer
    • Your attorney is trained to know what is important. Chances are if they are asking about it, they need to know about it.  It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it could completely change their advice to you.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer
    • Feeling comfortable with your lawyer will significantly increase your ability to be open and honest with him or her. This is key for you to get the best advice and for your own piece of mind.  Even if your attorney gives you the best advice in the world, if you are not comfortable with him or her, you may never fully trust what they’ve said.
  • Don’t price shop
    • Cutting corners now can cost you big time in the end. We are seeing a rash of people trying to do things on their own or do things piece meal because they are trying to save money.  While I will be the first to wait for a sale, cut coupons, and look for the best deal, legal dealings are not always the best place to do so.  Certainly you should inquire as to fees and not blindly hand over your hard earned cash.
  • Ask family and friends for referrals if you don’t know who to go to
    • Asking someone one who has actually worked with an attorney if they liked them can be far more effective than picking a name out of a random list. However, keep in mind your friend or family member’s personality.  If you are nothing like your cousin, will the same attorney work for you?  Ask the person what they liked and disliked about the person they are recommending.  Then decide if those are qualities you are looking for as well.
  • Have a trusted financial advisor or accountant? They can make referrals as well
    • Accountants and financial advisors work with attorneys all the time. They have seen the attorney in action and can make a referral based on real interactions.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

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.

LNP recently wrote about the rapid rise in organic produce across Pennsylvania.  As it is with most other agricultural production, Lancaster County is leading the way in this increase.  The article says that the sale of certified organic products in Pennsylvania doubled in 2016.  Organic products accounted for $660 million, or about 9% of all agricultural products in Pennsylvania.  This is already a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s agriculture, and it will only continue to grow.  According to the LNP article one in every four organic operations in Pennsylvania is located in Lancaster County.

Part of the article focuses on Ebenezer Groceries in Ephrata and its owner, Jonah Dodd.  Ebenezer Groceries is a discount grocery store.  But Jonah has dedicated a large portion of his store to the sale of organic produce, even though organic produce costs a little more than his other items. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wegmans will soon be established in Lancaster County.  These stores have committed to featuring local produce, including certified organic produce.  It is telling that the demand for organic products comes from a wide range of shoppers, from more expensive stores like Whole Foods to discount stores like Ebenezer Groceries.  This tells me that the desire for organic produce, meat, eggs, dairy, etc., is not a passing fancy.  This demand is only going to increase, and Lancaster County farmers will continue to lead the way in this area.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

The holidays are typically a joyous time spent with family, but following a divorce or separation, the idea of not being able to spend every minute with your children can put a damper on your holiday spirit.

Speaking from experience, Christmas with your children following a divorce doesn’t have to be that different.  And more importantly, both you and your children will make it through just fine!

Here are a few tips that may help to make this an easier transition for both parents and kids. Continue Reading Holiday Custody Issues

By now, hopefully I have convinced you that you need a Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and that you need to consult with an attorney that focuses on estate planning in order to prepare these documents.

But my job is not done.  Having all of these documents prepared is only half the battle.  Making sure these documents are kept up to date, is the rest.  These documents are not once and done.  You should be reviewing these documents every few years and every time there is a major life change.

When someone in your family gets married or divorced you should review the documents.  When a new family member is born or a family member dies, you should review the documents.  When you start a new job or retire, you should review the documents.  Often times, reviewing the documents may not mean changing the documents.  If the documents still reflect your wishes, you probably don’t need to change them.  Continue Reading Myth #10- Once and Done!

The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County recently honored its 2017 recipients of the C. Emlen Urban Awards.  I am proud to say that The Press Building in Lancaster City won an award for adaptive reuse.  Congratulations to The Drogaris Companies, the developer of the building, and to Tippetts/Weaver, the project architects, as well as to all of the other professionals and builders involved with the project. We have been involved in the project for nearly all of its history, and I have had a courtside seat for most of it.

The Press Building is one of my favorite kinds of projects. I love when a historic or rundown property is rescued. The building was built in the early 1900s as a cigar factory and warehouse.  From 1922 until 1992, the Lancaster Press Company used the building for printing.  The building sat vacant from 1992 until it was adapted for its current use.  Today, the building has been refurbished to house 48 residential condominium units.  In addition, the ground floor of the building is set to house a fine dining restaurant and bar.  Continue Reading The Press Building and Drogaris Companies Honored by Lancaster Historic Preservation Trust

I have been fortunate to finalize many adoptions for amazing adoptive families over the years and I always tell them that I get to do the fun part.  In the wonderful and sometimes crazy world of adoption, getting to the finish line to finalize an adoption can be a long, difficult, and often emotionally draining experience. Families who adopt children through the foster care system have varying experiences relating to legal risk, the length of time a child remains in the system attempting reunification, and for some, appeals to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. But when all of that is said and done, I am lucky enough to sit down with families and tell them the finish line is near.

Adoption finalization is a relatively simple process when you are working with experienced caseworkers and knowledgeable attorneys. The coordination between the placing agency, the families, and the adoption attorney allows families to finalize their adoptions with the completion of certain documentation. For families who have been through a long adoption process, it is difficult for them to believe that once they meet with me, the majority of the work is done and in most cases, their adoption will be finalized in a few weeks. Agency caseworkers ensure that all of their legal requirements are complete and they work with the adoption attorney to ensure that the legal requirements of the family are completed, including such things as State Police Criminal Background Checks, Childline Clearances, and in some cases, FBI Checks. The agency adoption workers then provide me with the information necessary to prepare an Adoption Petition. I prepare the Petition and meet the families (hopefully including the adoptee). That is the best part of my meeting, when I get to meet the children who are receiving permanency and witness their interaction with their forever family. Continue Reading Crossing The Finish Line: Adoption Finalization

We have written a lot of articles about the countywide property tax reassessment covering the basics of residential and commercial assessment appeals and what the new assessed values will mean to property owners.  Now that most of the appeals have been processed, the county and each school district and municipality knows the total assessed value of property.  They will all set their tax millage rates before the end of the year.  All of this coming together will allow you to calculate your total property tax for 2018.

I had the opportunity to work with a few commercial property owners who decided to appeal their assessments.  In these cases, we were able to get the total assessed value of the properties cut almost in half.  This is going to save these particular landowners around $20,000 per year in property taxes.  Every case is different, and I cannot guarantee that anyone would be successful in a property tax appeal.  There were, however, major similarities in the properties that received big adjustments in their assessed value.  These were:

  1. There was something unusual about the property that the county did not take into consideration; and
  1. The property owners had a good appraisal report to support their appeal.

With both of these things present, a commercial property owner has a good chance at getting their assessment reduced.

So what happens if you decided not to pursue a property tax appeal this summer?  You are able to appeal your assessment every year.  There is a short window of time between when taxes are sent out and the tax appeal deadline of August 1.  This does not mean you have to wait until next summer to think about a tax assessment appeal.  If you believe that the assessment of your property is incorrect, we can help to evaluate and pursue an appeal.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and General Assembly have created new rules on the amount of net loss carryover (NLC) a corporation can deduct.  This is an interesting instance where the Pennsylvania General Assembly has drafted a law trying to predict the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in the Nextel Communications case.  The General Assembly correctly predicted the outcome of the case, and so the new NLC provisions will become part of the new law.

The question is how much of a corporation’s loss may be carried over from prior years as a deduction against taxable income.  At the time of the case, the Pennsylvania Revenue Code provided that a corporation could carry over losses as deductions equal to the greater of 12.5%  of the corporation’s taxable income or $3 million (now those limits are $5 million or 30% of net income).  This produced a result where corporations with less than $3 million in net income could deduct all of their losses up to that $3 million cap.  Corporations with net income over $3 million could only deduct 12.5% of their net operating loss. The effect is that many corporations with income under $3 million paid no corporate taxes, while bigger corporations paid quite a bit.  The Supreme Court’s decision stated that 98.8% of Pennsylvania corporations did not pay Pennsylvania corporate income tax.  The Court decided that this was unconstitutional, as a violation of the Uniformity Clause that requires all taxes on the same class of subjects to be uniform.  Continue Reading New Pending Rules for Corporate Net Loss Carryover Deductions in Pennsylvania

Last week, I dispelled the myth that you only need a Will in order to have a proper estate plan.  This week, I am focusing on who you give power to in these documents.  The person you grant power to under a Will or Power of Attorney is generally known as a fiduciary.  As I previously explained a few years ago, a fiduciary is a fancy catch all word for personal representative (which is another way of saying executor, executrix or administrator, administratrix), guardians, agents, and trustees who are all subject to the jurisdiction of the Orphans’ Court in Pennsylvania.

Many times my clients feel a sense of obligation to name their children as their fiduciaries and use birth order as a method of selection.  Simply being the first born does not make a person more qualified to handle your finances than anyone else.  It is important to consider the nature of the position you are appointing the person to.  What kinds of decisions are they going make?  What kind of responsibilities are they going to have?  Who are they going to have to interact with?  How will others respond to them? Then look at the people you are considering for each position.  Who will fit best in each position?

Take for example Simon and Helena.  They have three children.  Eleanor, a doctor who is bad with money, Liam, an accountant, who is suspicious of medical professionals, and Robert, their oldest child who, while fine with money and generally trusting of medical professionals, tends to disappear for months on end and is unable to get along with either of his siblings. Eleanor and Liam, twins, get along well but are not on speaking terms with Robert.  Who should Simon and Helena name as their Fiduciaries for the Will, Financial Power of Attorney, and Health Care Power of Attorney? Continue Reading Myth #9 – I Must Appoint The Same Person For All Of My Estate Planning

Pennsylvania removed the restrictions on legally enforceable open adoptions via legislation referred to as Act 101. As many adoptive families and individuals know, Act 101 provided for Post-Adoption Contact Agreements, known as PACAs. These Agreements essentially established legally enforceable open adoptions in Pennsylvania. Under certain circumstances, adoptive parents and certain categories of birth relatives could enter into a PACA and allow for contact between adoptees and certain birth relatives post-adoption. PACAs could provide for any type of contact that was agreed upon by the parties.

Act 101 was welcomed with open arms by many families involved in relative adoptions, private agency adoptions where birth parents had indicated their preference to allow their child to be adopted by a family who would agree to contact with the birth family post-adoption, and even step-parent adoptions. However, the application to and effect of Act 101 on adoptions through the foster care system was not so great.  Children in the foster care system had often already suffered significant loss as a result of the circumstances under which they entered the system.  With the implementation of Act 101, these children’s adoptive parents often had to reiterate to their adopted child that it was not a good idea to have contact with their birth family. Or, in other cases, adoptive parents had to determine what type of contact would be appropriate with birth family members while still protecting their adopted child from the potential additional trauma of having contact with some birth family members, but not the biological parents. Continue Reading Pennsylvania’s Expansion of Open Adoption Post-Act 101 – Good or Bad, Right or Wrong, It’s Here