philly parent circle blog
No one likes to think about dying—especially once you have kids. It’s hard enough to find a babysitter that you trust, much less think about your kids navigating the world without you. When you aren’t prepared, though, not having a Will and Trust created for your children can be the kind of thing that keeps you up at night. Taking care of your estate planning gives you the reassurance that your children will be protected if something happens to you.
Philly Parent Circle are proud to introduce you to Alison Gross. Alison is a practicing lawyer focusing on all areas of estate planning and lives in the Fitler Square area of Philadelphia with her husband and two children.
Here's what she has to say:
First, you want to make sure that you have guardians designated. A Will can do that for you. There are a number of considerations that go into choosing a guardian—Are the potential guardians parents already? If so, how do you feel about the parenting choices they have made? Do the potential guardians have the same values and/or religious background as you? Would you be putting a financial burden on the guardians? (Note: the right amount of life insurance can help with this). Have you talked to the potential guardians about taking on this responsibility? Ultimately, the important thing is that every parent have a Will that includes guardian designations. Otherwise, the courts will make the decision for you, and it is very likely it would not be the person or people you would have picked. It is important to note that a guardian designation is not final until both parents die. If you change your mind about the guardians named in your Will in the future, under Pennsylvania law, you may change the designations through codicils to your Wills or by executing new Wills.
So if your main concern is naming a guardian, an online Will can do that, right? That is true. If you really feel like you don’t have the money to hire an estate planning attorney, an online Will is better than nothing, and most will allow you to name guardians for your children. But many online Wills don’t have the necessary provisions to ensure that your money is protected for your children. In Pennsylvania, when someone leaves over $25,000 to a child, the courts must get involved to appoint someone to manage the money for the child. The court then supervises that person and his or her management of the money. This requires hiring a lawyer, and spending money on legal fees and court costs. It is much simpler and less expensive to create a trust in your Will that will name a trustee that you choose to manage your money if something happens to both parents. Another issue with guardianships is that a child will receive all of his or her money at age 18. Even the most responsible and mature 18 year old would likely be overwhelmed by being responsible for your life savings. A trust can be written to last until your children are older, while still giving your trustee the power to manage the money and spend it on your children’s education and living expenses.
Another problem with online Wills is that those services often don’t advise you on how to handle “non-probate assets.” Life insurance policies, 401(k)s, and IRAs are not controlled by your Will—they pass according to the beneficiary designation for that asset. A lot of parents of young children have most of their wealth in these types of assets, so it’s important to make sure that your Wills, trusts, and these assets with beneficiary designations are coordinated. An estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to make sure that your children are protected financially if something happens to you.
Finally, although most people think that the Federal estate tax is just for “rich people” (that is—not you!), the Federal estate tax is scheduled to change in the next year and may affect many more people than before. The tax currently has an exemption of $5 million per person, but is set to go back to a $1 million exemption in 2013. Your estate for Federal estate tax purposes includes life insurance. Also, if you don’t plan properly, you may not be able to use both you and your spouse’s exemptions. So if you have life insurance, and have saved some money, it’s possible that the Federal estate tax could impact you. There are ways to plan for these changes using trusts. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine whether this is something you need to be concerned about, and what planning techniques make sense for your family.
Estate Planning is an investment in your family’s future. It ensures that, if the unthinkable occurs, you are leaving your family with a well-ordered estate plan that saves them time and money and ensures that they are protected. It is well worth your time and attention, and taking care of it now will leave you with one less thing keeping you awake at night.
Alison Gross concentrates her practice on all areas of estate planning (wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and trust agreements) and estate and trust administration, as well as representing beneficiaries, estate administrators, trustees, and guardians in litigation matters.
Alison is an active member of the Philadelphia Bar Association and serves on two committees of its Probate Section, as well as acting as Liaison between the Probate Section and the Young Lawyers Division. Alison is also a member of the board of directors of SeniorLAW Center, a nonprofit organization that protects the legal rights and interests of the elderly.
Alison was selected as a 2012 “Pennsylvania Rising Star” by Super Lawyers.
Alison received her B.A. from Penn State and her law degree, with honors, from the George Washington University School of Law. Alison also completed the estate planning certificate program at Temple University School of Law.
Originally from Bucks County, Alison lives in the Fitler Square area of Philadelphia with her husband and two children.
2526 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146