Personal Legal Blog

Your Personal access to legal news, tips, and insights

Understanding how Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax affects assets

An important aspect of estate planning is making sure that you have an understanding of the Pennsylvania inheritance tax and how it will impact your estate. Most assets that are in your name at the time of death are subject to Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax. The tax rate is based upon who receives the asset or assets from your estate. Assets received by your spouse are taxed at a rate of 0.00%, assets that are transferred to children and grandchildren are taxed at a rate of 4.50%, transfers to siblings are taxed at a rate of 12.00% and all other heirs are taxed at a rate of 15.00%. It is important to know these tax rates when deciding how your estate will be distributed in your Last Will and Testament.

It is also important to know that any asset transferred by you at least one year prior to your death is not subject to the Pennsylvania inheritance tax. Additionally, jointly held assets are only subject to the Pennsylvania inheritance tax based on your portion of ownership at death.

Although this is a basic summary of the Pennsylvania inheritance tax, our firm is happy to meet with you to discuss how the tax will impact your estate and heirs. Call 724-375-6683, or email me at CMcMillen@personallaw.com for a free consultation.

Making the best of traffic violations

Pennsylvania has strict penalties for traffic violations. Multiple infractions can sometimes lead to accumulating points on your driving record. An accumulation of points or some violations alone can lead to a driver’s license suspension. Additionally, you could likely see an increase in your automobile insurance premium.

At Personal Law, we work with individuals who have been charged with violations that include, but are not limited to, careless driving, hit and run offenses, DUI offenses and speeding tickets. Some people attempt to navigate through the system on their own and end up pleading guilty to charges which have hidden penalties and consequences. Our defense attorneys understand how to manage the best possible outcome to help our client’s avoid the potential consequences of traffic violations.

Driving is a very important privilege. You simply cannot afford to have your license jeopardized. Call 724-375-6683, or email me at NUrick@personallaw.com for a free consultation to know your rights and to have them protected.

Protecting Yourself With a Real Estate Disclosure Form

In Pennsylvania, Sellers of homes are required to provide prospective Buyers with a fully completed Real Estate Seller Disclosure Form. It is critical to take time to fill out this form and disclose all defects with your home relating to the topics covered by the form. If the sale of the house is completed, and you failed to disclose a defect in your home that you had knowledge of, you may be liable for the cost to repair the defect as well as attorney’s fees and other damages. However, if you disclose the defects prior to the sale of the property, then you will not be liable to the Buyer(s) if they decide to proceed with the purchase of the home without addressing the specific defects that you listed on the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Form. You can view a sample of the form via the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors here.

Call 724-375-6683, or email me at CWMcMillen@personallaw.com for a consultation.

No will: what will happen to your assets?

Most of my clients think that if they die without a Will, all of their estate assets will go to their spouse. They are surprised to learn that is not the case in Pennsylvania. If you die without a Will and are married with children, the first $30,000 of your net estate assets are distributed to your spouse and the remaining assets are split 50/50 between your spouse and children. This can be especially problematic if you have minor children, as their inheritance has to be set aside until they are adults. Also, assets inherited by your children are subject to Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax, while assets received by your spouse are not.

You can avoid these problems by having a Will prepared by our office. It is a fast and easy process. Call 724-375-6683, or email me at CMcMillen@personallaw.com for a consultation.

Consumer Protection Claims

The Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law was enacted to protect the public from unfair and deceptive business practices. Business practices that are illegal under this Act include false advertisement, misrepresentation, misleading price reductions, failing to comply with a written guarantee or warranty, and any fraudulent or deceptive conduct that creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding among consumers. The Pennsylvania Attorney General and County District Attorneys can enforce the Consumer Protection Law by filing a lawsuit to stop conduct that is in violation of the Act and require payment of fines and restitution for those who have been harmed.

Individual consumers may also file a private action if they suffer a loss of money or property due to unfair or deceptive business practices in connection with a purchase or lease of goods or services for personal or household use. Consumers that succeed in a private action can recover up to three (3) times the amount of their actual damages, as well as attorney fees.

Beaver County Juror Insights

Our office recently concluded a complex trial that was able to be settled after the jury empowered in the case heard three days of testimony. Our client was the Estate of a man killed in an industrial explosion here in Beaver County.
Our client was working at the facility on July 22, 2010, when the explosion occurred. Evidence showed that the defendant corporation had rebuilt one of the refinery columns 12 days earlier. The plaintiff’s engineer opined that the defendant negligently left foreign material, in the nature of excessive refractory mortar, inside the column. The plaintiff contended that the refractory mortar clogged the flow of molten zinc during operations.
After 12 days of operation, the plaintiff claimed that the zinc flow began to back up into the super-heated column. The pressure caused by that back-up resulted in a massive explosion that took the lives of both decedents, according to the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiffs contended that their position was supported by post-explosion photographs, indicating the presence of loose and excessive mortar inside the column. The plaintiff’s forensic pathologist opined that the decedents experienced conscious pain and suffering in the nature of total body burns and smoke inhalation before they perished. The defense agreed that a back-up of zinc into the column led to the explosion. However, the defendant maintained that the rebuild of the refinery column was performed in accordance with industry standards, and that there was no conclusive evidence that excessive mortar caused the back-up of the zinc into the column.
The defense also argued that the decedents died instantaneously in the explosion, and would not have experienced any conscious pain and suffering.
As you can see from the above summary, this was a complicated case and required substantial effort on the part of the jury to fully understand the issues in the case. It was apparent that during the three days of testimony that the jury was keenly aware of what occurred and their attentiveness and devotion to understanding the case, we believe, enabled the case to be settled during the trial. But for this jury’s undaunting focus on the evidence as it was presented, the outcome of this case may have been far less certain.

Social Security Disability Update

Not so good news out of Washington for those applying for Social Security Disability benefits. It is taking longer to get a hearing date. In our area, for example, the wait time is now about 14 months. The Judges are tending toward denying more claims. The number of cases pending per Administrative Law Judge is increasing while the number of Judges is decreasing. At the end of November 2014 the number of cases at the Administrative Law Judge hearing level nationwide surpassed one million. Despite this news we continue to fight the fight for our clients applying for Social Security Disability. Call or email me at rurick@personallaw.com for a free consultation.

New Ruling

The Social Security Administration issued a new Ruling dealing with evaluation of claims for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The revised rule appears to be positive as it added additional criteria to be considered.

Social Security Statistics

Statistics from 2013 published by the Social Security Administration concerning appeals from Judge decisions to the Appeals Council are quite revealing. Only 1 % of the time did the Appeals Council overturn the Judge and award benefits. 17 % of the time the Council sent the case back to a Judge for further review but did not award benefits. 82 % of the time the Council dismissed or denied the appeal. This underscores the belief that winning the case at the Judge level is all important.

Court Ruling

In March 2014 the Commonwealth Court ruled that a County Court Judge had no authority to order an insurance company to compromise a lien it had against a worker’s third party recovery. Jurisdiction over a dispute concerning such a lien rests with the Workers Compensation judge.