Welcome to Pennyborn.com. This site will help you find information and forms you need to make an estate plan, probate an estate, and settle a trust in the United States. Whether you have a modest estate and cannot afford a lawyer or have a substantial net worth and want to use tax-saving estate planning methods, Pennyborn.com offers extensive resources to get your estate planning documents in order and plan your legacy. Whether you are dealing with estate planning issues for the first time or updating estate planning documents executed years ago, Pennyborn.com is a great place for getting the answers you need about wills, trusts, and estate planning. Bookmark this site as your estate planning guide. For a list of steps required to make an estate plan, go to wills and trusts.
Common Estate Planning Concerns
Based on current estate planning trends, below is a list of some of the most common issues that may arise as you plan your estate:1.
For some people, avoiding a costly and public probate proceeding is one of the primary reasons to make an estate plan. You can use certain forms of title to pass property outside of probate. You may also want to use non-probate transfers to distribute your assets.2.
Inheritance. Many of us are curious about whether our property will go to our parents, children, and siblings or to our spouse or partner. Some inheritance rights, such as the rights of a surviving spouse, are fixed by law while some parts of your estate may be left to a beneficiary of your choice.3. Dementia and Wills. Age related health conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's can affect the ability to make a valid will or trust. The validity of gifts and bequests made at this stage in life is a common cause of will and trust disputes. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a will contest.4. Disinheriting an Heir. It can be upsetting to have adult children that only want to inherit from your estate or greedy heirs that try to cut other family members out of an inheritance. If you plan to disinherit an heir, make sure an attorney includes the correct language in your will.5. Living Trusts. If you have talked to anyone about making an estate plan, chances are you have heard about living trusts. You may be wondering whether you need a living trust or only a will. A living trust has several advantages and may help avoid probate of your estate, but not everyone needs an estate planning trust. Pennyborn.com provides tips on how to decide whether you can benefit from a living trust.
6. How to Change Your Will. Making changes to your will or trust without following the proper execution requirements is a common cause of estate litigation. Failure to comply with state laws when amending a will or trust can result in your estate planning documents being declared invalid. Pennyborn.com features information on how to make a codicil to a will, change a beneficiary, and revoke a trust.7. Conservatorships. Adult children often have questions about whether they need a conservatorship for an elderly parent. Conversely, seniors want to avoid being subject to a conservatorship. By making a power of attorney, individuals concerned about planning for incapacity can appoint someone they trust to manage their finances. You can locate power of attorney forms and conservatorship forms on Pennyborn.com.8. Life Insurance. Purchasing adequate life insurance is one of the most common estate planning issues. Also, most people do not have a clear understanding of how to name beneficiaries on life insurance, especially if the policy owner has an estate planning trust or estate taxes are a concern. Pennyborn.com has many resources on how to properly use life insurance to achieve your estate planning goals.
Last Wishes and Your Estate Plan
You may think making an estate plan is all about deciding who should inherit your property when you die. It is important to leave a Letter of Instruction about your estate. However, you may have forgotten to tell your family or friends what to do about your funeral and burial. These are referred to as last wishes. Advance funeral planning is becoming a more important part of estate planning for several reasons. Funeral services and burial plots cost more than ever before. Many families cannot afford the cost of a typical funeral. Also, attitudes about burial and cremation are changing, with more people choosing to be cremated and fewer people purchasing burial plots. For information on how much different elements of a funeral typically cost, see can I afford a funeral.Your relatives or next of kin may not know how to make your final arrangements when you die. Unless you make provisions in your estate plan, they may be unable to pay for the type of memorial you want. For a free last wishes form and a letter of instruction, go to funeral planning guide.
How to Settle an Estate in the U.S.
If you are serving as executor of an estate or trustee of a trust in the United States for the first time, you may have questions about where to start and how to avoid mistakes. Pennyborn.com provides an overview of each step in the process of
estate administration, whether the estate is subject to probate, qualifies for a small estates exception to probate or will pass to beneficiaries through a trust and other non-probate transfers. To get started, review our executor checklist. By using the free forms for executors and other resources on our website, you can save time and money when settling an estate or administering a trust.
Free Trust Administration Guide
Pennyborn.com features information on the laws applicable to estate planning trusts in the United States. New trustees often refer to our trustee checklist for a list of duties typically required to administer a trust. For individuals unsure about whether they want to serve as trustee, this site provides information on services trust companies provide and trust administration fees.If you have questions about opening a trust account, changing title to trust property, trustee investment duties, preparing a trust accounting, making distributions to beneficiaries or how to close a trust, our Trust Administration Guide outlines the steps involved in performing these fiduciary duties. Pennyborn.com also has forms you may need to amend or maintain your living trust, such as a trust restatement form, trust amendment form, certificate of trust form, trust dissolution form, and other forms for trustees.Updated on November 19, 2019.
Free Estate Planning Forms
Pennyborn.com is a great resource for finding forms to make an estate plan or change your will. Some of the most frequently used forms include our last wishes form, living will forms, power of attorney forms, checklists for making an estate plan, forms for organizing your estate, letter of instruction forms, and our estate planning worksheet. To access these forms and start your estate plan, go to free estate plan forms.
Free Estate Planning Guide
If you are starting the process of making an estate plan or were appointed to manage a deceased person's estate, you probably have lots of questions about trusts, estates, probate, and funeral expenses. Pennyborn.com features many free estate planning guides, including the following: Estate Planning Guide for Parents, Guide to Living Trusts, Funeral Planning Guide, Pet Owners Estate Planning Guide, Estate Planning for Small Businesses, Probate Guide, and Trust Administration Guide. To start browsing our free estate planning guides, go to Estate Plan Checklists. Our estate, trust, and probate guides are easy to understand and free for personal use.
Estate Planning Basics
If this is your first time making a will, living trust, power of attorney or health care directive, start by learning the basic elements of estate planning. Here are three key issues to consider:1. Do you know who will get your estate if you die without a will? Most people have misconceptions about what happens if your estate passes to your heirs at law rather than the beneficiaries you name in a will. Although state law provides for how your estate will pass under the laws of intestate succession, you would probably rather be the one to decide who inherits your property. To learn your options, go to Dying Without a Will.2. Regardless of whether you make an estate plan, someone will be left with the burden of making your final arrangements and paying for your final expenses. One of the best gifts you can leave your survivors is a document that costs nothing to create. By completing a Memorial Preferences form, you can leave instructions for your funeral, burial, and other last wishes. In addition to making a will, funeral planning has become an essential part of putting your affairs in order as the financial consequences to heirs become more significant.3. When you think about estate planning, you may not realize it also involves your health care. However, planning for incapacity, a terminal illness, and similar issues is also an important step in making an estate plan. At some point in your life, you may need someone else to make health care decisions on your behalf. There are documents you can execute leaving instructions about the type of care you want and the person you want to have authority to make these decisions. For forms to leave these instructions, see
living wills.Even if you are only interested in making very basic estate planning documents, it is essential to start the process by consulting a lawyer. Only a licensed attorney can properly advise you on all the issues you need to consider when making an estate plan and competently draft your estate planning documents.
Finding an attorney.
Estate Planning Software
Although many people want to make an estate plan, the cost of having a will, power of attorney, and health care directives prepared by an attorney is often seen as an obstacle to putting your affairs in order. Fortunately, you can purchase estate planning software that allows you to create your own estate planning documents at your home or office.Using an attorney is the best way to ensure your estate plan is prepared properly. Nevertheless, estate planning software is an alternative if you are on a tight budget. If you are going to try the do it yourself approach to estate planning, one way to avoid costly mistakes is to read a primer on how to make a will or living trust. To see top-rated estate planning guides on a variety of topics, review our list of Estate Planning Books.
Current Estate and Gift Tax Rates
If estate taxes are a concern, you may want to start using a very easy estate planning strategy. By gifting assets to your heirs during your lifetime, you can reduce the size of your estate, which may result in lower taxes being assessed on your estate. To find the 2019 and 2020 estate tax rates and exemption amounts, go to
If you are going to use gifting as an estate planning strategy, review the annual gift tax exemption amounts, as they often change from year to year.
See 2020 Gifting Limits. Consult a tax advisor before making a gift, donation, contribution or transfer. A CPA or accountant can advise whether you will be required to file a gift tax return and whether any gift tax is due.Also, let your tax professional know you want to start gifting to your heirs and consult an estate planning attorney about whether you should create a trust as part of your gifting strategy. For current gift tax exemption amounts for the 2019 tax year, go to
2019 Gifting Limits.
Heirs and Beneficiaries
Pennyborn.com provides information and forms for surviving spouses, partners, children, siblings, and other heirs and beneficiaries. If you have questions about inheritance laws, estate taxes, inherited IRA's, contesting a will, debts of the deceased, creditor claims, Medicaid estate recovery, and similar types of issues, you will find articles on our site that provide helpful information.Pennyborn.com also features information for beneficiaries on issues such as how to get information about a trust and the amount of fees a trustee can charge for trust administration. To find answers to the most frequently asked questions, start with our guide for heirs and beneficiaries.
Pennyborn.com is an online reference guide to estate planning, trusts, gifting, estate taxes, living wills and advance health care directives, guardianship, funeral planning, will and trust disputes, and probate in the United States. Pennyborn.com features estate planning guides and free estate planning forms that may be helpful when making an estate plan. This site also publishes forms for executors and trustees, along with articles on estate and trust administration.For 2020 advertising rates for any of the Pennyborn Planning websites Contact Us.
INFORMATION ON THIS SITE, INCLUDING ARTICLES, ESTATE PLANNING FORMS, AND THE ESTATE PLANNING BLOG, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL, FINANCIAL OR TAX ADVICE. Pennyborn.com is not a law firm and is not a substitute for a lawyer. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Information on this site is for educational purposes only and may not be accurate, complete or up to date.