FAQs

At American Wills & Estates we understand that the process of creating an effective estate plan or carrying out the timely and appropriate administration of a loved one’s estate can be a daunting and emotional experience. We understand that our clients are being exposed, often for the first time, to unfamiliar legal terms and concepts. We strive to make the process of estate planning and estate administration as simple and straightforward as possible. At American Wills and Estates we speak to our clients in plain English, and we are sensitive to the fact that many of our clients are still grieving the loss of a loved one. Our number one goal is to put our clients at ease and to reassure them with competency and compassion in their times of need.

Remember, creating an effective estate plan can save your loved ones not only money but also unnecessary stress and anxiety at an already difficult time. Our attorneys our are experienced with all phases of estate planning and estate administration. If you have been thinking about making a Will or if you already have one and are thinking of making a change, we would like to speak with you.

What sets American Wills & Estates apart from the rest?

We provide all of our Estate Planning services including, but not limited to, the preparation of Last Will and Testaments, Durable Financial and Healthcare Power of Attorneys, Living Wills and Trusts on a on a low flat fee basis.  For example, simple Last Will and Testaments start at just $75.00.  We also provide all of our clients with a free legal consultation so that we can discuss how an effective estate plan can best be tailored to meet that individual’s specific family needs. DON'T TRUST YOUR HARD EARNED LEGACY TO AN ONLINE WILL PREPARATION SERVICE OR A STORE BOUGHT WILL KIT. For the same price, or in many cases even less, you can meet with an experienced estate planning attorney who will custom craft an estate plan that best addresses your family's specific individual needs.

The lawyers at American Wills & Estates offer extremely affordable estate planning and probate estate administration services. Most of our estate planning and probate administrative services are provided on a flat fee basis. To schedule your FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION, call us today at: 1-877-PA WILLS (1-877-729-4557), or contact us online.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of accumulating and disposing of an estate to maximize the goals of the estate owner. The various goals of estate planning include, but are not limited to: making sure that the greatest amount possible of a person’s estate passes to that person’s intended loved ones and beneficiaries; paying the least amount possible of inheritance and death taxes on the estate assets; and minimizing or altogether avoiding the extent of the probate process to which that person’s estate might otherwise be exposed. In formulating an effective estate plan, it is important to consider, among other things:

  • The size of the client’s prospective estate and what kind of assets (real, personal, monetary) are held in it;
  • Who the client’s loved ones and intended beneficiaries are, how old they are, and whether or not any of them have any special needs or disabilities;
  • The type and extent of the potential estate or death taxes to which the client’s estate may besubject; and
  • What the client’s future goals and financial needs may be.

Proper estate planning should address not only what happens to a client’s assets after his or her death, but also how to best provide for that person’s future needs and physical well being during his or her lifetime. Many people believe that estate planning consists of nothing more than making a simple Will. Obviously, a properly implemented estate plan can entail much more than that. Estate planning may involve not only financial and tax planning, but also medical and business planning. While a Will is certainly an important component of an estate plan, other documents should also be considered and discussed. These may include a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney, a Revocable Living Trust, a Living Will, or even a Special Needs Trust.

At American Wills & Estates we understand that every client’s financial and family situation is unique. We will take the time to fully understand your personal circumstances and your hopes for your family in order to craft an individual estate plan for you that best meets your needs. We will help you accomplish what you want to accomplish, while making every effort to minimize and avoid the effect of estate and after-death taxes on your assets.

Remember, the circumstances guiding your decisions while formulating your initial estate plan are likely to change as your life and financial situation changes. At American Wills & Estates we continue to work with our clients during their entire lifetimes. We want to ensure that their estate plans are not only current as to both Pennsylvania and Federal estate tax laws, but also with respect to carrying out and fulfilling their wishes and goals.

Who should have an Estate Plan?

Whatever the size of your estate, you should have at least some kind of basic estate plan in place. It is extremely important that, in the event of either your death or incapacity, you have designated a person or persons who can step in and act on your behalf. If your estate is small, you may be satisfied with simply establishing who gets your assets upon your death and who will be in charge of administering and distributing them. However, if your estate is larger, you should be concerned not only with who will distribute and receive your assets, but also with how those various assets can be best preserved and passed on to your intended beneficiaries. Specifically, you should be most concerned with minimizing or avoiding the extent of estate and death taxes to which your assets will be exposed.

If you do no estate planning and die without a Will, Pennsylvania law does provide for the court appointment of a person or persons to administer your estate. However, these laws do not and cannot take into consideration what your specific wishes are or what the particular individual needs of your family members and beneficiaries may be. As a result, your assets may be distributed to someone whom you did not intend to have a share in your estate. Remember, only by leaving a valid Will after your death can you ensure that your assets will be distributed as you intended.

What kind of questions are involved in Estate Planning?

In starting to formulate your estate plan, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What assets are in my estate and what is their approximate value?
  • Who do I want my assets to pass to, when and at what age?
  • Who should manage my assets if I become unable to manage them on my own?
  • Who would take care of my minor children if I die?
What is a Will and why should I have one?

A Will, or, more formally, a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document in which you direct how and to whom your property, both real and personal, shall be distributed after your death. In your Will, you will name a personal representative (often referred to as an Executor) who will be responsible for the administration of your estate in accordance with your specific wishes and directives. One important reason to have a Will is so that you can appoint legal guardians and trustees for any of your children who may be minors at the time of your death. These legal guardians and trustees will be responsible not only for the raising of your children, but also for the management and distribution of the estate assets that you have left to them.

If you die without a Will, you shall be considered to have died intestate. This means that your estate will be distributed in accordance with a formula fixed by Pennsylvania state law. The Pennsylvania laws of intestate descent do not and cannot take into consideration your specific wishes or the particular individual needs of your family members. As a result, your assets may be distributed to someone whom you did not intend to share in your estate. Only be leaving a valid Will after your death can you ensure that your assets will be distributed how and to whom you intended.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legally enforceable document by which you can designate and authorize another person or persons to act on your behalf in the event of your disability or incapacity. You are called the “Principal” under the document and the person or persons you appoint are called your “Agents.” The authority conferred by the POA may be specific (limited to certain designated transactions like selling a car or a piece of property) or general (applicable to any and all decisions that you would otherwise have to make or consent to on your own).

In addition, you can control the time period during which the POA is considered to be in effect by electing to make the instrument either “durable” or “springing.” A durable POA becomes effective immediately upon your execution of the instrument and remains in effect until changed or terminated by you. A springing POA, as the name implies, can spring into and out of effect depending on whether or not certain requirements or criteria set forth in the instrument have been met. Often, the criterion is that your Agent must first obtain a writing from your treating physician attesting to your incapacity.

Under Pennsylvania law (20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5404): "A principal may, by inclusion of the language quoted in any of the following paragraphs or by inclusion of other language showing a similar intent on the part of the principal, empower an agent to do any or all of the following, each of which is defined in section 5603 (relating to implementation of power of attorney):

  1. To make limited gifts.
  2. To create a trust for my benefit.
  3. To make additions to an existing trust for my benefit.
  4. To claim an elective share of the estate of my deceased spouse.
  5. To disclaim any interest in property.
  6. To renounce fiduciary positions.
  7. To withdraw and receive the income or corpus of a trust.
  8. To authorize my admission to a medical, nursing, or similar facility and to enter into agreements for my care.
  9. To authorize medical and surgical procedures.
  10. To engage in real property transactions.
  11. To engage in tangible personal property transactions.
  12. To engage in stock, bond and other securities transactions.
  13. To engage in commodity and option transactions.
  14. To engage in banking and financial transactions.
  15. To borrow money.
  16. To enter safe deposit boxes.
  17. To engage in insurance transactions.
  18. To engage in retirement plan transactions.
  19. To handle interests in estates and trusts.
  20. To pursue claims and litigation.
  21. To receive government benefits.
  22. To pursue tax matters.
  23. To make an anatomical gift of all or part of my body.

A principal may also provide for:

  1. The appointment of more than one agent, who shall act Jointly, severally or in any other combination that the principal may designate, but if there is no such designation, such agents shall only act jointly.
    1. The delegation of one or more powers by the agent to such person or persons as the agent may designate and on terms as the power of attorney may specify.
  2. The appointment of one or more successor agents who shall serve in the order named in the power of attorney, unless the principal expressly directs to the contrary.
  3. The delegation to an original or successor agent of the power to appoint his successor or successors.
What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A Revocable Living Trust, also often called a Family Trust, an Inter Vivos Trust, a Grantor Trust or simply a Living Trust, is a legal instrument that is created to hold title to your real property and other assets. Once created, you must “fund” it by transferring the ownership of your assets and holdings to the trust. If properly funded, a Revocable Living Trust can be an effective means of passing your assets on to your children or heirs without subjecting them to probate. However, the proper funding of the trust means everything and should be overseen by a competent legal professional.

Revocable Living Trusts have become extremely popular in recent years, and are being mass marketed to the public on the radio, on television and at legal or estate planning seminars. However, like everything else, they are not for everyone. If you own multiple pieces of real property or if you have a family business that you intend to pass on to your heirs, perhaps a revocable trust is right for you. However, if your estate is small and your children are grown up and reliable, you can often accomplish the same goal of avoiding probate associated with revocable living trust without the time, complexity and expense associated with creating one.

Remember, before you decide that a revocable living trust is right for you, it is a good idea to speak to at least one or more attorneys who specialize in estate planning.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal term referring to the official “proving” of a Will. It also refers to the formal process by which an Executor or Administrator is appointed by the Register of Wills Office to oversee the administration of a Decedent’s Estate. The process is usually initiated by obtaining either Letters Testamentary (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if the Decedent died without having made a Will).

The process of administering a Decedent’s Estate is conceptually a simple matter. The Decedent’s assets are determined and collected, his or her debts and death taxes paid, and the remaining asset are then distributed to the individual’s intended beneficiaries. However, on a practical level the administration of a Decedent’s Estate can involve a number of complexities.

Not all of the assets owned by a Decedent are necessarily subject to probate. Often, a Decedent’s assets may be collected and distributed without the necessity of raising an estate and obtaining either Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. Such a determination is made based upon an examination of the size of the Decedent’s estate, the type of property and other assets held by estate, and the kind of ownership interest that the Decedent had in the property at the time of his or her death. The probate process also allows for the determination of any creditors who may have valid claims against your estate at your death.

The probate process can have both certain advantages and disadvantages. If your intended beneficiaries do not get along and are likely to bicker or if they are very young, the probate court can be useful in resolving any disputes or disagreements that may arise about the distribution of your assets. Likewise, you will be assured that the actions of your executor will be subject to both the scrutiny and approval of the probate court. However, one of the major disadvantages of probate is its public nature. After your death, your entire estate plan and the value of your estate will be available for public review. In addition, your heirs will incur greater costs and fees then they would have had your assets passed to them outside of probate or pursuant to a revocable living trust. Finally, time may also be a consideration. Though not always, the probate process can be slow and could result in the delayed disbursement of your assets.

Remember, before you decide that avoiding probate court is right for you, it is a good idea to speak to at least one or more attorneys who specialize in estate planning.

What assets are included in my Probate Estate?

Your probate estate will consist of all property, real, mixed or personal which you own, in your name alone, at the time of your death. Probate assets may include bank accounts, real estate, stocks, bonds, automobiles and miscellaneous household goods and personal possessions. If these type of assets are in your name alone at your death, they will generally pass through your estate pursuant to the terms and conditions of your Will or Trust. However, you may also hold these assets in a manner in which they will pass, either in whole or part, outside of your probate estate.

Specifically, you may hold and own assets that are titled in more than your name alone. You may own assets as a Tenant by the Entirety, a Joint Tenant or even a Tenant in Common with another person or persons. You may also have assets such as life insurance, IRAs, qualified retirements plans and annuities on which you have designated one or more beneficiaries. As you can see, the manner in which your assets are titled during your lifetime can have an extremely important impact on both how and to whom they will pass at your death.

The value of your estate is calculated by determining the “date-of-death” value of each asset that you own at your death, minus your debts, funeral bill and other probate costs and expenses. The size of your estate is important in determining whether, and to what extent, your estate will be subject to estate taxes and death taxes. Making sure that your children and/or other loved ones have the resources needed to meet such potential tax obligations is another important part of the estate planning process.

To whom should I leave my assets?

Deciding who to leave your estate assets to is a purely personal matter. You may choose to leave everything to your children in equal shares; you may elect to favor, to some degree, one child or family member over another; you may elect to exclude a child or family member altogether from taking or inheriting any portion of your estate; or you may decide to give all or part of you estate to charity or charities. However, once you have determined who and to what degree your heirs and beneficiaries will be, the attorneys at American Wills & Estates can help clarify your wishes in a well thought out and properly drafted estate plan

Who will take care of my minor children?

A minor pursuant to Pennsylvania law is any child under 18 years of age. If both parents of a minor are deceased, a minor child is not legally qualified under Pennsylvania law to care for his or her self. As such, it is important in your Last Will and Testament to nominate one or more, individual or joint, guardians of the person and property of your minor child or children.

How can the way I title my assets make a difference?

The title and manner of ownership interest that you have and hold in your assets is critical to the formulation of your estate plan. Before you change the title to your home or to any of your assets, you should understand what the tax ramifications and other consequences of such a change will be. At American Wills & Estates, our attorneys can advise and educate you about such matters.
WHAT IS A LIVING WILL OR DURABLE HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY?

A Living Will or Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you state, in advance of medical treatment, the type and extent, if any, of medical care that you wish to receive in the event that you become terminally ill or irreversibly brain damaged. Unlike a Will, the terms and provisions of your Living Will are intended to be interpreted and followed during your lifetime, but, generally, only at the very end of same.

Under Pennsylvania law (20 Pa.C.S.A. §5404), "an individual of sound mind who is 18 years of age or older or who has graduated from high school or has married may execute at any time a declaration governing the initiation, continuation, withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. The declaration must be signed by the declarant, or by another on behalf of and at the direction of the declarant, and must be witnessed by two individuals each of whom is 18 years of age or older. A witness shall not be the person who signed the declaration on behalf of and at the direction of the declarant."

Client Testimonials

"Knowledgeable, professional, efficient, compassionate and to the point. These are just a few of the words I would use to describe my recent experience with Mr. Lloyd Welling at American Wills & Estates. Whatever your needs may be involving the will and probate process, Mr. Welling is there to guide you every step of the way, as well as ensure you are being treated fairly and with respect."

Karen Flaherty - 08/2015

"Mr. Welling and his Associates had held my hand through a very hard time in my life. Walked me through a very complicated situation and took the risks for me. I HIGHLY recommend this Law Firm . A very caring and down to earth group of Attorneys. Yet I was treated as if I were part of their family!"

Dawn Culp - 03/2016

"Chose American Wills & Estates to have our documents done. First impressions are everything and they made the cut. Both Lloyd and staff were very personable and professional. They were easy to get to and parking was so much easier than going downtown. Their pricing is also very reasonable. I'd recommend them and use them again. Thank you!"

Mark Breisinger - 04/2016

"We highly recommend American Wills and Estates, specifically Lloyd A. Welling, Esquire. You need not look any further. His and his staff's manner, knowledge and professionalism was excellent then and still is today. Twenty years later, he and his firm continue to assist my family as I serve as an Executor for another relative. Mr. Welling and staff have expertly served our families for other legal matters as I identified above. Again, you need not look any further."

Tom & Jessica - 11/2016

"Highly recommended firm!!! Mr. Lloyd Welling, esq. is very professional, respectful and efficient:)"

Sunita Jayakumar - 12/2014

"This firm helped us tremendously with executing my father-in-laws will. I've heard many horror stories about this process. But Lloyd made this painless and process went very smoothly and minimized the emotional toll on my wife. Now we both have our wills through American Wills & Estates."

Sam Walton - 03/2016

"Mr. Welling has been great in helping me with completing a very difficult estate. He has guided the procedures necessary where a successful conclusion is close at hand. I would and have recommended American Wills and Estates to others."

Frank Perman - 03/2016

"Mr. Lloyd Welling ESQ. , is in my opinion a kind, honest, to the point individual, with a thorough knowledge of his profession and a incredible ability to make even the hardest of times easier to deal with. Extremely professional, accessible, efficient and a pleasure to work with. I have no reserves in recommending his services to anyone who has a need for estate planning or a will."

Ron Capozzoli - 04/2015

"The death of a loved one is never an easy thing to handle. However, the attorneys at American Wills & Estates made the process of organizing and administering my late mother's estate as simple and painless as possible. I would highly recommend American Wills & Estates to anyone facing the difficult and often painful ordeal of handling the affairs of deceased loved one."

Anonymous - 06/2006

"Lloyd Wellington is fantastic! Our family is so appreciative of his expert assistance, reliability and prompt handling of our wills. Highly recommended!"

Dawn Justice - 03/2015

"The attorneys at American Wills & Estates handled my late father's estate in a professional, caring and sympathetic manner. They made a difficult and stressful situation manageable. I would highly recommend their services to anyone experiencing the painful loss of a loved one."

CJR from Ligonier, PA - 12/2006

"My wife and I just completed our wills with American Wills & Estates. We also had POA's and Living Wills completed. They pointed out several items that we would not otherwise had thought of, but that were important issues to address. The process was very smooth and professional. I would highly recommend Mr. Welling and his staff to everyone."

Steve Amsdell - 01/2013

"Mr. Welling is very kind and our experience was Great!. He helped us get through a very complicated time in our lives, very smoothly. I would recommend American Wills and Estates to anyone going through a difficult time or in need of excellent legal advice. Thank you A.W.E. !"

Donna Patterson - 03/2016

"They were the best Law Firm and very professional. Every time the situation felt like there was no hope they made us feel like we mattered and they cared about us and not just another client giving them money. I highly recommend this firm and would absolutely refer them to anyone that came into a unfortunate situation like we did. Oh and by the way we won the case because of all their hard work. You guys rock!"

Brandi Bryant - 11/2016

"Very knowledgeable and helpful with a difficult situation I was in. He helped me overcome the situation with a great solution. I will definitely be going to him again and highly recommend his services."

james Raimondi Jr. - 01/2017

"Attorney Welling is extremely knowledgeable and takes the time to make sure the job gets done right. I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone in need of estate planning or the handling of a decedents estate."

Steven Tabano - 08/2014

"Not only did we get personalized service like visits to my mother when she was to ill to travel but got the best advice possible. During this very difficult time Lloyd was a godsend. He took over and handled every detail to perfection. By choosing American Wills & Estates I was able to deal with the death of my mother while all the legal details were handled for me! I highly recommend American Wills & Estates for all of your estate needs. I continue to use them and always will."

Scott G Barbour - 04/2016

"I dealt with Lloyd Welling and he was great. When my dad died, Lloyd held my hand throughout the whole process and handled everything. He was very professional and explained everything that he did. I would highly recommend this firm. They also prepared a will for me (very reasonable fee)."

Jodie T. - 08/2010

"Although I have not as yet had the opportunity to do business with American Wills & Estates, it has been my pleasure to know the owner, Atty. Lloyd Welling for most of his and my lifetime. He was then and is now; an articulate, caring and respectful young man. I look forward to working with him professionally in the near future."

Isa Bella - 03/2016

"He did a great job of explaining the intricacies of estate planning. My needs were very simple. He took the time to hear my concerns and present options for future consideration as I may need them. The office will help you create a living will for free and his prices are very reasonable. It's difficult to find trustworthy legal help that is not over-selling. I would highly recommend him."

Kari Sera - 12/2015

"Through my difficult situation, I felt 100% satisfied with the one-on-one attention. They were always very organized, even though at times we weren't. Everything I needed to be taken care of was just that, with the extra knowledge of doing it more stress- free. I would recommend AW&E to anyone going through a difficult time."

Anonymous - 10/2008

"I highly recommend Lloyd Welling from American Wills & Estates. He recently helped my mother and I with my father's estate. I was a bit leery about employing the services of an attorney in PA as I live in CA. Lloyd put me at ease with his professionalism. He was prompt, honest, and provided us with excellent service. Lloyd resolved our estate issue quickly and efficiently."

Denise Jacobs Mcguire - 06/2016

"Open, honest, blunt and to the point! I'm ever so glad Mr. Welling is on my side. I made a wise choice. Always there when you need him and ever so good at easing the minds of those in very sad, confusing situations. Thanks!"

Dp Culp - 07/2013

"Absolutely The Best Law Firm That I Have Ever Dealt With. Very Professional! And Yet Treats You Like Family!"

Jonathan Goonen - 03/2016

"Meeting with Lloyd to plan the will, POA, and Advance Directive was great - he was flexible and worked to accommodate my wishes."

Michelle Kienholz - 06/2015

"I'm very pleased that we selected American Wills and Estates to help my family through what is often a difficult process at best; from the initial set up of my elderly aunt's will and estate planning over five years ago; advice and council during her illness over the past two years; and ultimately step-by-step assistance in settling her estate after her passing earlier this year. They were there for me and my family through it all, and with friendly, supportive and sound advice. I highly recommend their services."

Anonymous - 11/2011

"We highly recommend American Wills and Estates. You need not look any further. I wish to note that I first engaged Mr. Welling in 1997 as I served as the Executor of my grandmother's estate. His and his staff's manner, knowledge and professionalism was excellent then and still is today. Twenty years later, he and his firm continue to assist my family as I serve as an Executor for another relative. Mr. Welling and staff have expertly served our families for other legal matters as I identified above."

Thomas Hrabovsky - 11/2016

"The entire process from start to finish was completed in a matter of a couple emails. Atty Welling provided prompt and expert advice. Extremely satisfied with this law firm."

Sandra Powell - 12/2015

"I called around to get an idea of pricing for wills, living wills & power of atty, and was quoted 500$ from other firms. I was not expecting less than half of the competitor's quotes. They were quick, efficient, friendly, (i could go on...). I would and will recommend them in the future!"

David Strell - 07/2016

"I had a great experience with Mr. Welling. He got back to me within hours of my message. He was sweet, easy to talk to and got right to work on my case. I felt secure he knew what he was doing."

Maureen O'Halloran Sinko - 10/2015

"I was overwhelmed with the thought of drawing up my will. I can say with certainty that dealing with Lloyd Welling and American Wills & Estates, the process could not have been any easier and smoother. Thank you for the great experience!"

Cindy Magri - 06/2015

"He made many suggestions and corrections that helped me prepare my Will. He also prepared my Power of Attorney and my Living will. I am always skeptical about Lawyers trying to talk me into something that I do not need to have. Lloyd was up front and honest. I will continue to use his practice."

Cindy Cohen - 10/2016

"In addition to being knowledgeable, he always kept me informed! If I had a question or just wanted to check on the progress of my probate matter, I always received a prompt response. I could not believe the amount of paperwork that is involved. I could not have gotten through this without Mr. Welling's professional help. If you ever need a reliable, trustworthy and honest lawyer, be sure to give Mr. Welling a call."

Martin Coyne - 01/2017

"You answered all my questions and offered advice, thank you again! Anyone ready to make their planning of their will and looking for a professional expert go see Lloyd Welling."

Tina Herceg - 04/2015

"My parents and I have used AMERICAN WILLS & ESTATES in the past and will in the future.They are a Compassionate ,Professional ,and Highly Educated in the Law.This is a company I would not hesitate to refer to anyone."

Marcia Eich - 03/2016

"I feel fortunate that our family was referred to American Wills and Estates who helped us through a very difficult time. We were in from out-of-town for my Sister's unexpected death and needed to get Power of Attorney and a Living Will for our Mother immediately. American Wills and Estates made the process easy and we felt that they had our best interest in mind. They were very caring and personable. I highly recommend them and I now ask myself why we didn't take care of these matters a long time ago."

Anonymous - 11/2011

"Hard working, professional, knowledgeable and returned my calls promptly and when he said he would. He is honest, straight forward, and will not try to lead you down a path where you spend a lot of money for nothing. He is practical and trustworthy. I HIGHLY recommend that you hire Lloyd Welling if you are searching for a good attorney!"

Elise Able - 06/2016