Estate Matters
The Klenk Law Blog



Posted on Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: The attorney handling my uncle’s Bucks County estate mailed me a Receipt, Release, Refunding and Indemnification Agreement. There are no details about how much he spent or other expenses. If I sign this, do I waive my rights to ask any questions?

A Receipt, Release, Refunding and Indemnification Agreement is a probate tool that allows the executor to distribute estate funds to a beneficiary with the promise from the beneficiary to return the funds if it later turns out they were distributed in error. The same form can contain language that, if you sign, means that you agree to take the funds without an accounting and waive your rights to ask future questions. Read more »



Posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Is there a statute of limitations period to challenge a will in Bucks County?

Yes. You have one year from the filing of the will to appeal the filing of a will and to contest the validity through a will contest or will challenge. Filing sooner rather than later is usually the best, as the Executor might be selling or distributing assets, which may be difficult or impossible to recover. Read more »



Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I have heard that if I form a trust, I can help reduce the federal estate tax due at my death, is that true?

There are many types of trusts. Some help reduce the federal estate tax and others do not.

For example, a Revocable Living Trust is a useful tool for many reasons, but it does nothing to help reduce the federal estate tax. A typical trust used to reduce the federal estate tax is the Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. These trusts can vary greatly, but their usual goal is to remove your life insurance from your taxable estate. Read more »



Posted on Saturday, January 30th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother died a resident of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania survived by three sons. She had no will. One of my brothers has signed a renunciation giving me the right to serve as the Administrator. My other brother is homeless and I don’t know where he is, what can I do?

The Register of Wills may issue Letters of Administration to give authority to someone to act as the Administrator of an estate if the person died without a will. The statue spells out who has a right to serve. If the person dies without a spouse then each child has the right to serve. Most often, the children will agree on one person to serve and the other children will complete renunciations in favor of that person. Read more »



Posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I have been reading about trusts to avoid probate. Can a trust help my estate avoid probate?

Trusts come in all shapes and sizes and can help you meet many different goals. If your goal is to avoid probate, you could use a Revocable Living Trust, or you could use any number of different Irrevocable Trusts. Both categories help your estate avoid probate.

In general, a Revocable Living Trust is a tool used when you want to avoid probate but also want to control and use the assets in the trust during your lifetime. Because you maintain control and use, these assets remain available to pay your creditors and are subject to death taxes at your death. If your goals are to avoid probate, provide asset protection, and avoid death taxes, then you must use an Irrevocable Trust. There are so many different types of Irrevocable Trusts, I would need to know much more about your assets in order to suggest which one is the best fit.

If you have any other questions about Estate Planning, Revocable Living Trusts or Irrevocable Trusts, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation with one of our Montgomery County estate planning lawyers.



Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My children would just endlessly fight each other, so I want to name a lawyer as my executor. I see most lawyers charge a percentage of the estate to serve as executor, but your website says you charge by the hour. Which is better?

Over the years I have found that when serving as executor, charging a percentage of the estate is seldom a fair fee. I feel more comfortable charging my hourly rate for actual work done. Read more »



Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My grandmother died in a senior living facility in Philadelphia. She died without any real assets except for a small bank account and some stock held just her name. Her will said the stock was supposed to be used to pay her last bills and then anything left over would be divided among the grandchildren. We’re confused as to how to sell the stock once we do the transfer paperwork. Do we have to sell it through Computershare or can we sell it through any brokerage?

During her lifetime, the stock and bank account could only be accessed or liquidated by your grandmother. Now that she is dead, the accounts will sit until an authorized person contacts the bank and brokerage. As your grandmother had a will, and she lived in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, that authorized person is the Executor under the will. The Executor needs to take the Will to the Philadelphia County Register of Wills along with the death certificate, your ID and a checkbook. The Register will then examine the will and verify it is authentic and properly signed. The Register will also verify the death certificate’s authenticity and that the person who is in the room is the same person named as the Executor in the will (hence the ID).

Once confirmed, and the fee is paid (the checkbook/credit card), the Register will take the will and exchange it for paperwork that authorizes the Executor to act for the Estate. That paperwork goes to the bank and the brokerage house. They, in turn, will now liquidate the stock if the Executor makes that request. There is a lot to being an Executor, including filing the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return, paying creditors, etc. You would be well advised to retain an experienced Probate Attorney to help you. Remember, the Executor is personally responsible for money not applied correctly, so don’t pay any bills or distribute any assets until you understand all aspects of the estate.

If you have questions about Probate in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.



Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2016 by Peter Klenk

My Dad passed away this month. When he died, I found out that I was still on his Delaware County apartment lease as a cosigner. The lease was signed in 2011. I had moved out in 2013, letting the management company know that I wanted off the lease. When I asked if the management company had anything for me to sign, they replied ‘no’. When I had moved out, my Dad had let his brother, his son and his grandson move in. They are still there and the landlord’s been asking them for money for each day they are there past the end of last month. When my Dad died, I just thought I would be morally obligated to remove my Dad’s property and clean. Instead, I am getting a feeling that the landlord wants to hold me responsible for damages, utilities, and possible future rent. My Dad had nothing and I am a stay at home mom of special needs children.

You have mentioned a number of potential issues. First, the only person who has the authority to act for your dad after he has died is the executor of his estate (if he had a will) or the administrator of his estate (if he had no will). It sounds like your dad or his estate owes the landlord some money. If your dad had any money in his account or if his assets could be sold to pay the bill, that could reduce your own personal exposure in this case. If so, think about opening his estate and using that money to pay the bill and to settle any dispute with the landlord. Read more »



Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother has Alzheimer’s, so we have sold her house and moved her into my house where my wife and I care for her. My brother is emotionally supportive, but he lives in California so he does not help out with her day-to-day care or decisions dealing with her health or assets. Though she is cooperative, the Alzheimer’s makes caring for her a near full-time job and we have spent a great deal of money on alterations to the house. Can I be reimbursed from her estate for these expenses?

By saying that “we have sold her house” would indicate that either yourself or your brother and you have a Durable Power of Attorney from your mother. If she has not yet signed one but is still competent, she should certainly sign one immediately. Alzheimer’s comes on gradually, so if she has not yet diminished too far she can still sign a power of attorney. Read more »



Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2016 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Though always independent, I recently have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had to move into my daughter’s Delaware County house. I can’t do much for myself anymore and have to rely on my daughter. She is spending a great deal of her time caring for me and she has had to pay for several things out of her own pocket. I want to treat my children equally, but my two sons are very busy and are not able to help, so the work falls all on my daughter. I feel that I need to repay her for all this work at my death, what can I do?

This situation is coming up more and more often, and it certainly can end up causing bad feelings, conflict and even litigation between siblings. The best option is to make a decision now, while you are still able to explain yourself clearly, and put the decision in writing. One option is to give your daughter a larger share in your Will. Your Estate Planning Attorney can work with you to clearly spell out the amount that you wish to leave her and can be the witness after your death to disprove any suspicion that your daughter exercised undue influence on you to make the change. Read more »