Berman & Asbel, LLP

Philadelphia Family Law and Estate Planning Legal Blog

Civil asset forfeiture: Practical or punitive?

If you have a bundle of cash, there is no law against you carrying it with you wherever you go. That kind of action isn't typically recommended, though, because of the risk the carrier faces if some nefarious person finds out about the stash and decides to take it.

What might surprise you however, is that sometimes the taker isn't always a criminal. It could be the police. And the action can happen without warning or even a warrant. This is allowed under the legal theory of civil forfeiture. It states authorities can seize large sums of cash and even real property (houses, cars, boats) in some cases without the target being charged with a crime.

Does it Ever Make Sense to Turn Down an Inheritance?

It might seem hard to imagine, but sometimes it makes more sense to turn down an inheritance than to accept it. And because Pennsylvania statutes make provisions for such occurrences, it is something to keep in mind when developing your estate plan.

The law allows any person who is named as a beneficiary of an interest in a decedent's property to say, "no thank you," either in part or in whole, by submitting a disclaimer. The court requires disclaimers to be in writing, detail exactly what is being turned down, and carry the disclaiming beneficiary's signature. To ensure that intended recipients understand they have the option to say no, it may be possible to include a disclaimer clause in your will.

You Leave Much to Estate Planning Chance If Yours Lacks Specifics

When a person takes up a sport, any sport, one of the key elements of success is learning and honing the fundamentals. Nearly every endeavor in life starts this way. 

In Pennsylvania estate planning, creating a will stands as the widely recognized fundamental first step. Considering that this is the tool for distributing assets to your heirs, it can feel like you have accomplished a lot if you just get that one thing done. Too often, individuals pull generic documents from the Internet, fill them out, and think that covers their bases. Those with experience in this area know drafting and executing a will involves much more. The devil is in the details.

What Rights Do Grandparents Have?

Becoming a grandparent is a milestone event. Building a bond with your grandchildren may have been a long-held dream of yours. You likely work hard at strengthening that bond at every opportunity.

So, when your grandchildren's parents announce their decision to divorce or separate, you may be naturally concerned. And you may start to wonder, what rights do you have as a grandparent?

Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Pennsylvania But There Are Still Challenges

The right of nearly all adults to marry in Pennsylvania is a matter of law and has been since 2014, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. That does not mean that all existing walls of discrimination against same-sex couples have come tumbling down. Four years later, headlines claiming alleged discrimination still abound.

Just last month, the city of Philadelphia announced a decision to suspend city funding to two faith-based foster care agencies because they refused to work with LGBT individuals or couples desiring to become foster parents.

Can I Sue if An Injury or Death Occurs South of the Border?

Spring break is pretty much over for the college-age set. With the youth crowd back on campus and flights and rents now more reasonable, many older couples and families will take advantage of vacation deals to the warmer climate of Mexico.

Just Because an Asset is Intangible Doesn't Mean it's Not Taxable

Readers may be aware of the fairly recent news involving the estate of singer Whitney Houston. According to reports citing court documents in the case, attorneys for the estate won a significant victory by reaching an agreement with the IRS to pay $2 million in taxes. The IRS had sought $11 million, alleging that the estate had undervalued the worth of certain Houston assets such as royalties, residuals and the value of her name. A term that applies to many of the items on that list is "intangible assets".

The Houston case and others like it reflect the challenge that intangible assets held by individuals and businesses can present in terms of solid estate planning and probate litigation in Pennsylvania.

Property Basics for Unmarried Couples

People are not getting married at the rate they used to. Rather, data collected by the Pew Research Center and other organizations indicates that cohabiting among adults is increasing. Numbers reportedly rose from about 14 million in 2007 to 18 million in 2016.

While not holding legal married status, men and women in committed relationships often live as if they were. Over time, they accumulate assets and liabilities together. Co-owning a home is not uncommon; nor is co-owning a business. Many times, such couples are jointly indebted on a mortgage, or co-sign loans for each other. For many, the question that must surely spring to mind is, "What happens to all of that property and debt if the relationship ends?"

Does Your Estate Plan Encompass All It Should?

Who needs an estate plan? I don't have an estate.

Sadly, this is a widely held misconception, which is why the topic comes up so often in forums such as this post.

The truth is that an estate can be made up of all sorts of things. Big-ticket items, such as your primary residence, your vacation home, a boat or car, count. But small things with sentimental value deserve to be counted as well. Things such as a deceased loved one's wedding or engagement ring and photographs that have special significance can have value And where value is attached, there's reason to include it in an estate plan.

How the Opioid Crisis Can Trigger Increased Criminal Charges

Pennsylvania is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. The severity of the problem is clear from statistics showing that while overdose deaths are down in 14 states, they are still rising in Pennsylvania. In January, Gov. Tom Wolf declared the situation a public health emergency and issued orders so addiction sufferers can access drug treatment more easily.

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