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February 2016 Archives

Deciding to create a trust for children

Pennsylvania parents who are preparing their estate plans may wonder whether they should set up a trust for their children. This depends on several factors, including their goals and what kind of assets they have. Some assets, such as retirement accounts, pass to heirs by naming them as beneficiaries. Others, such as homes and vehicles, can be set up to do so by adding the person who will inherit it to the title with rights of survivorship. Both beneficiary designations and titles override what is in a will, so it is important that these remain current.

Child support and federal income taxes

As tax season approaches, Pennsylvania parents who are divorced may have questions about child support and reporting obligations. Whereas spousal support has some clear tax reporting obligations, child support does not typically impact one's federal tax return. The parent who owes child support cannot use it as a deduction, and the receiving parent is not obligated to report such funds as income.

Relatives of Bobbi Kristina Brown fight over estate expenses

Most estate disputes among surviving family members in Pennsylvania do not warrant headlines, but another drama has erupted in the aftermath of Bobbi Kristina Brown's death. The conservator of the estate for the 22-year-old daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston has filed a legal complaint alleging that the co-trustees of a trust established for Ms. Brown have refused to pay for the administrative expenses of the estate.

Dealing with domestic violence concerns in family court

A Pennsylvania parent affected by domestic violence might assume that this issue would be seriously evaluated in family court as matters of child custody and parenting time are decided. However, the matter might not receive as much attention as anticipated if the children have not been physically abused themselves. Further, some judges are more likely to consider abusive patterns to be a function of stress rather than evidence of efforts to manipulate.

Sheriff's office teaches parents lesson for not paying support

Some Pennsylvania residents have learned the importance of making child support payments the hard way as the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office arrested 11 parents for not making payments as part of an overnight sweep that took place on Feb. 3. These 11 parents owed money for 16 children, and the total amount owed was $126,218.63.

How to talk to children about an estate plan

Pennsylvania parents who are working on their estate plan may have heard that communication with family members is an important aspect. However, it should be approached carefully. It is not a conversation that should be sprung upon people, and generally, the details of estate planning cannot be covered in one conversation. People may have preferences as to how they would like to conduct the conversation. For example, some families may prefer one-on-one conversations while others might want to have a family conference. A video conference is an option in family with far-flung members.

Considering divorce and Social Security spousal benefits

When Pennsylvania residents approach retirement age, timing can make a huge difference in tapping into Social Security benefits. Early retirement can result in lower benefits, but waiting until reaching the age of 70 to access benefits allows time for one's maximum possible benefits to be achieved. Couples often coordinate their filing to make use of Social Security spousal benefits initially and maximized personal benefits later. A combination of factors could impact these options, especially if a divorce will be a consideration.

Leaving out children in a will

While many Pennsylvania families generally get along, there are some situations in which resentments, disagreements and long-standing dynamics take their toll. In some cases, these tensions are reflected in family members' wills. This is particularly true in the case of parents who, for a variety of reasons, may choose to leave most or all of their estate to one child while excluding his or her siblings.

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