Gardner and Stevens Law Firm

KURT A. GARDNER
JOHN C. STEVENS
CONNIE J. STEVENS

Ephrata, PA 717-733-3330

Lititz, PA 717-626-7728

Lancaster, PA 717-299-0007


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Estate Practice

ESTATE PLANNING SERVICES

Family Law Attorneys in Ephrata & Lititz PA

Estate Planning

Our firm routinely handles all matters that a typical person or family needs to have complete peace of mind that they and their family are taken care of in times of need. We counsel individuals about their options to preserve wealth and prevent unnecessary expenditures that deplete the size of their estate that is otherwise able to be passed on to their heirs. Below are descriptions of just a few of the services within our estate practice.


Estate Administration

Our firm is able to help families and executors make sense of the probate process and to expedite the finalization of estates in a cost-effective manner. Our firm handles all sizes of estates from under $10,000.00 to multi-million-dollar estates. We handle all steps of the probate process from start to finish.


Powers Of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that is utilized while a person is alive but is unable to act on their own behalf. Responsibilities that are given to another person, your “Agent”, typically include the ability to make financial, medical and other important decisions on your behalf. As with wills, it is always helpful to have an alternate in case your first choice is unable to serve. It is important that a power of attorney is prepared when a person is competent. If a person is no longer competent it is too late to prepare a power of attorney. In those cases, we must petition the court to appoint a guardian at substantially greater expense than if the person had a properly prepared power of attorney. Therefore, it is important that everyone obtain a power of attorney while they are mentally able to do so. Remember, whenever your agent acts on your behalf, they must always sign with the designation of “Agent” or “Power of Attorney” after their name. Otherwise, it may be construed that they are signing for themselves and not on behalf of another.


Wills

A will, also known as a last will and testament, is the primary document utilized to ensure that a person's final wishes are carried out so that your assets are disbursed pursuant to your specific instructions upon your death. During our consultation, be prepared to discuss who you would like to name as the executor (person in charge of overseeing your estate), your beneficiaries/heirs (the people who will inherit from you), the person who would be the guardian of any minor children and any other specifics that are unique to your situation. It is always a good idea to have alternates or backups if the person you would like to name is unable to serve for any reason.


Living Wills

Living wills, also known as advanced directives, are instructions as to what measures, if any, should be utilized to keep you alive if you are in a terminal condition. Decisions include whether to take advantage of feeding tubes, resuscitation, and other extraordinary measures. These decisions should be made after consultation with your physician, family and attorney.


Asset Protection

Many times people are given incorrect information as to how best to protect their assets. Commercials on television suggest that most people can benefit by preparing living trusts or other documents to avoid probate and taxes. Many times, these documents can do more harm than good. Questions arise as to whether real estate and other property should be transferred to children, whether outright or in joint names. These transfers often have unintended consequences. We conduct a thorough analysis of clients’ options and cut through the various myths and schemes that exist.


Trusts

Trusts are a useful tool for the appropriate person. Not everyone needs a trust. However, for those that do, they are an invaluable tool for estate planning and other purposes. Trusts can exist as result of a Will or they may exist outside of the Will in appropriate situations such as for an incapacitated person or disabled child. We will evaluate your personal circumstances to determine whether a trust is appropriate for you, and if so, what type of trust makes the most sense.


Nursing Home Planning

When a spouse or parent needs to enter a nursing home, it is a difficult time for that person and for the rest of the family. To compound the emotions, certain financial decisions need to take place so that assets can be protected to the maximum extent possible. The general rule of thumb is that there is a five-year look back period for all assets that are transferred prior to a person entering a nursing home and requesting medical assistance. However, even though a person may be within this five-year window, it is still not too late to conduct effective planning. Questions also arise as to how Wills should be modified for not only the person entering the nursing home but also for the spouse who remains outside of an institutional setting. Our attorneys will meet with you and thoroughly evaluate your needs.


Guardianships

When a loved one has become incapacitated and has not previously made arrangements for someone to handle their affairs, the Court can appoint a guardian on that person's behalf. Often a trusted friend or family member, a guardian will have legal authority to make appropriate decisions for that loved one. The presence of a guardian will insure that the incapacitated person does not become the victim of unscrupulous individuals. The appointment of a guardian, however, requires a number of legal steps including filing a Petition, procuring medical testimony to substantiate the incapacity, and the holding of a Hearing in Court. We have the experience necessary to guide you through this process, and to then assist the guardian in all aspects of subsequent required annual reporting to the Court.


The information contained herein is general in nature and should not be understood as a substitute for personal legal advice. A client-lawyer relationship has not been formed by simply viewing this website or contacting our firm for additional information. Please schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss the specifics of your individual case.