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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meet our Newest Attorney, Jeffrey Baxter!

Jeffrey Baxter is the newest attorney to our Highpoint Law Team. Like the firm’s founding attorney, Peter J. Gilbert, the law is Jeff’s second career.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Jeff served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at the Naval Air Development Center (NADC) in Warminster.  He also served in the Naval Reserves at NAS Willow Grove.

Read more . . .


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Is your Estate Plan up to Date with Technology?

One of the biggest complications in estate planning is that the law is forever catching up to technology. Obviously, for privacy concerns, access to the content of communications such as emails, text messages and social media accounts must be specifically given to an Executor or Power of Attorney Agent. These specific instructions should be placed in your will, trust, power of attorney or similar document. Does your Power of Attorney or Will or Trust mention access to digital access or on-line accounts?

There may come a time when someone needs lawful access to your online accounts and the current default (similar to laws of “intestacy,” when someone dies without an estate plan) is to follow a companies’ terms of services agreements. Some companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have developed policies to deal with the accounts of deceased users, but many are still unaware of these policies.


Read more . . .


Monday, November 9, 2015

Husband’s Will Leaves Second Wife Broke!

By Mark J. Manta, Esq.

Benjamin’s second wife, Julia, was a decade younger than her sixty year old husband.  They had one son, Brad, who has Down’s syndrome. Before Julia, Ben was married to Sarah for twenty years and had two children, John and Mary, who were estranged from Ben and were now adults living on their own.  Ben and Sarah divorced ten years ago, but Ben had always hoped for a reconciliation with his children and indeed sent them money on their birthdays every year.

Julia had never given a second thought to Ben’s finances or will as he had always taken good care of her and Brad.  Ben’s work in the healthcare industry provided well for his family. They had a large home in an upscale development.  Since he started working, Ben put his money into an IRA, and it was now worth over $2 million. Julia didn’t know much about it, Ben got e-statements from Vanguard and she only saw references on the tax return she signed.

A week ago Ben had fallen asleep reading, but this time he didn’t stir as Julia approached the couch. The day after the funeral she found his will in an envelope in the antique secretary. Her heart sank when she saw that it had been drafted before they had Brad.  The will left his estate to be split evenly, half to his estranged children the other half to Julia. She didn’t think Ben would have given John and Mary this much today, not with Brad’s special needs.  When she got in touch with Vanguard regarding the IRA, they told her that Ben had never changed the beneficiary from his first wife.

She couldn’t comprehend it. She won’t have any of the IRA; it all goes to Sarah.  Ben’s estranged children will each get $125,000 and Julia gets $250,000, the house and the cars. It’s not enough. Julia realizes she will have to sell the house and she doesn’t know how she’ll provide for Brad and his special needs.

Do you think this is how Ben wanted to take care of his family? Estate planning attorneys know a lot about the law, but to tell the truth, there’s a lot we don’t know. We don’t know when you’re going to die, what the law, or your family situation, or your assets will be like then. So how do we make sure your plan (your Will or your Trust) works correctly at that future time? We’ve found that the common-sense way to keep your plan on track is to get together every so often to review things and make any needed changes. We call this program ACE Advantage.

It’s not just about having the documents. If Ben and Julia had an easy way to keep in touch with their estate attorney, the changes in their lives would have been incorporated into their estate plan.  With our ACE Advantage platform, clients of HighPoint Law Offices have access to services to keep their plan up to date.  Both Ben and Julia would have been able to make informed decisions about how best to care for Brad.  With the ability to call with quick questions or make changes, there would not have been any dark surprises waiting in the secretary.  The difficult time in dealing with the death of a spouse would have not been compounded by the consequences of an estate plan that no longer worked.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Avoid the Need for a Probate Lawyer in Bucks and Montgomery Counties

If you are dealing with an estate that has to go through the probate process in Pennsylvania, your smartest move is choosing to work with a local probate lawyer.  There are cases where very simple estates will move through fairly easily, but there is still a matter of paperwork, accounting, etc. to consider; and a probate lawyer can save you an incredible amount of time and hassle.

The best way to avoid the need for a probate lawyer in Pennsylvania is to make sure that your estate planning has been done in advance.  This means that you’ve set up wills, trusts, and any other applicable legal documents so that those you leave behind won’t have to deal with taking the entire estate through the court system.  Trusts, such as a revocable living trust, are one of the most common tools for avoiding probate, but there are some other possible options.

Small Estates

Some people think that having a will means that your estate will bypass the process.  Any reputable probate lawyer in the Greater Philadelphia area will tell you, however, that this isn’t the case.  Having a will is certainly still important, as it provides important directions for the dissemination of your estate, but it doesn’t get your heirs off the hook when it comes to probate.

If the estate is truly a “small” one, then you may be able to avoid probate.  This can happen in cases where there the only thing left behind is personal property.  In these situations, there is no real estate to be inherited.  The laws regarding the allowable value of an estate to be considered in this group does change, so it might be helpful to at least chat with your local probate lawyer to see if the estate qualifies.  If so, the heir may be able to create an affidavit that will work instead of going through probate.  There may also be some simplified court procedures available to heirs of these very small estates.

Transfer-on-Death Deeds

Many states allow for real estate to be transferred after death without going through probate.  Again, laws change regularly, so it’s a good idea to check with a local probate lawyer or estate planning attorney to ensure that this is an option for you.  This kind of deed needs to be created in advance and will specify that it doesn’t take effect until the owner of the property has died.  Fortunately, transfer-on-death deeds can be revoked if the situation changes before the owner passes away.  This is not just a “gentleman’s agreement” and requires legal preparation, signatures, and notarization before being filed.

These are just a couple of tools available to those who want to avoid the eventual need for a probate lawyer.  If they have not been put into place, or you’re not sure if these rules apply to you, it’s advisable to speak with a qualified attorney in advance.


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HighPoint Law Offices assists clients with Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Medicaid Planning and IRA Preservation in Chalfont, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas including Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton Counties.



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