Pittsburgh Estate Planning Attorneys
40+ Years of Helping Clients Plan for Their Futures in Armstrong, Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Butler, Westmoreland Counties
If you are looking for an estate planning attorney in Pittsburgh, James M. Herb & Associates is the right law firm for you. For over 40 years, James M. Herb & Associates has proudly served the Greater Pittsburgh Area with estate planning matters. If a loved one has recently passed away, our attorneys can guide you through the probate process; if you or a loved one wants to create an estate plan to protect your assets, distribute your assets, and minimize estate taxes, our lawyers can lay out all your legal options and help you make the best decisions for your future.
What Legal Services Do James M. Herb & Associates Offer?
Our firm offers a full range of estate planning services, including:
- Probate (“Estate Administration”)
- Living Wills
- Powers of Attorney
- Will Contests
- Trust Litigation
- Medicaid Planning
- Asset Protection
Probate, Wills, and Trusts
Probate is an important court process related to the estate that a person leaves behind. When a Pennsylvania resident or property owner passes away, their death sets into motion the probate process, where the deceased person’s assets are distributed to their beneficiaries or heirs under the supervision of the court and used to pay the decedent’s outstanding taxes and debts.
A will is a legal document that communicates how you want your probate estate to be distributed upon your death. If a person dies without a will, they lose all control as to how their probate estate will be distributed, and their probate estate will pass in accordance with the Pennsylvania Intestacy statute. If you want to take control of how your probate estate will pass upon your death, it is best to consult James M. Herb & Associates to help you draft a will that embodies your wishes and desires.
A living will, distinct from a standard will, is a legal document that expresses your desire towards certain medical treatments and procedures in the event that you are unable to make such decisions on your own. Medical decisions that a living will covers include:
- whether you would want to be tube-fed (and if so, for how long);
- whether you would want to be resuscitated if your heart stops;
- whether you would want to be placed on a mechanical ventilation system if you cannot breathe on your own;
- organ donation matters; and
- if you want to donate your body for medical research.
Let’s say you were in an unfortunate and unexpected accident that caused you to lose all brain function that would allow you to make sound medical decisions. If you had a living will in place, you will have already specified what your wishes are, and you also spare your loved ones from the decision-maker role, which can alleviate a great deal of stress, as such decisions often lead to disagreements, guilt, and fighting among families.
A trust is another important estate planning tool that allows one party, known as the settlor, to give the legal title of a property to another party, called the trustee, who will then hold title for the benefit of a third party called the beneficiary. A trust is a powerful estate planning tool that may allow you to:
- reduce your estate and gift taxes;
- protect assets from creditors;
- ensure that the assets will be cared for by successor trustees; and
- potentially avoid probate costs.
There is a range of different trusts, including dynasty trusts, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, insurance trusts, testamentary trusts, spendthrift trusts, charitable trusts, QTIP trusts, and animal trusts. Our attorneys can help you determine if a trust is right for you and what type of trust best fits your unique situation.
In the case of disputes arising over wills or trusts, our firm also helps clients with will contests and trust litigation, which may arise due to wrongful conduct, trustee misconduct, or other disputes. If you have concerns over a will or trust, our firm can see if you have grounds for contesting the document and whether you might benefit from contestation.
Guardianships in Pennsylvania
Guardianship is also an important estate planning matter that may require the help of an attorney. Recall that a legal guardian has important responsibilities pertaining to the management of estate property handed down to the ward (person in the care of their guardianship). Unless the property is distributed or sold, the guardian appointed by the court has the right to:
- maintain and administer each real and personal asset of the minor to which their appointment extends;
- collect the rents and income from those properties; and
- make all reasonable expenditures necessary to preserve it.
Additionally, whenever the court finds it in the best interests of the minor, a guardian may:
- sell at public or private sale, pledge, mortgage, lease, or exchange any real or personal property of the minor;
- grant an option for the sale, lease, or exchange of any such property;
- join with the spouse of the minor or ward in the performance of any of the foregoing acts with respect to property held; or
- release the right of the ward in the property of their spouse and join in the deed of the spouse on behalf of the minor.
Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of a legal guardian on our Guardianship page.
Powers of Attorney (POA)
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives legal authority to a named “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You can also set the amount of power that person possesses in dealing with your personal and financial matters. Most people appoint a spouse, adult child, relative, trusted friend, or an attorney as their agent. There are several types of POAs you may create, and our firm helps with the following:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: Details important healthcare decisions that can be made on your behalf such as consenting to or denying medical treatments, diagnostic procedures, and services.
- Financial Power of Attorney: Details important financial decisions that can be made on your behalf such as paying bills, accessing bank accounts, and managing other types of financial affairs.
- General Power of Attorney: Grants broad powers of your affairs including all matters related to your financial affairs, buying and selling property, entering into contracts, firing and hiring employees, making investments, and filing taxes.
- Special Power of Attorney: Grants limited powers over your affairs to the agent such as the power to act with respect to a single transaction, to specific kinds of transactions, or to act within a set period of time.
Learn more about how we can help you create and execute a power of attorney here.
One of our firm’s more unique services is Medicaid planning. The cost of nursing home care continues to skyrocket across the country. If you qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits, the financial burden could be significantly improved and potentially save you thousands of dollars each month. We can help you determine your eligibility for Medicaid, as well as help you protect your assets by analyzing whether certain exemptions apply. Generally, the government requires that you spend almost all your money before providing you with Medicaid for long-term care; however, our attorneys can examine your eligibility for certain exemptions thereby assisting you in asset protection while still qualifying for Medicaid long-term care benefits.
In short, James M. Herb & Associates can help you protect your estate property and assets by utilizing the above estate planning tools or with other personalized strategies not discussed above. Are you ready to start or update your existing estate plan? Let’s protect your and your loved ones’ futures today.