Do I Need A Lawyer To Write A Shareholder Agreement?

Do I Need A Lawyer To Write A Shareholder Agreement?You have decided to start a new company and have chosen a business entity. So what’s next? Although corporate bylaws are required, they don’t address important issues that may arise if you have two or more shareholders in your company. One of the first things you should do is to have an experienced business lawyer help you create a shareholders’ agreement and other important legal documents associated with your business to make sure your company’s and shareholders’ rights and interests are protected.

What Is A Shareholder Agreement?

A shareholder agreement is a legal document that outlines how a company should be operated and defines shareholders’ rights, liabilities and obligations. When drafted properly, a shareholder agreement ensures that shareholders are treated equitably and protects them from certain actions that may be taken by other shareholders and outside parties.

What Is In A Shareholder Agreement?

In addition to outlining the privileges and protections of shareholders and how the company will be managed, shareholder agreements often restrict a shareholder’s ability to transfer shares to third parties outside the company.  Your agreement may also contain the number of shares issued, the fair pricing of shares, each shareholder’s percentage of company ownership, pre-emptive rights for existing shareholders to purchase shares, and specifics on payment if the company is sold.

A shareholder agreement also explains what will happen to shares should a shareholder pass away, retire or decide to leave the company. A shareholder agreement is often a vital element of small business succession planning and can ensure a smooth and equitable transition upon the death, retirement or disability of a shareholder.

A shareholder agreement may also address:

  • Membership of the board of directors
  • Officers of the corporation
  • Majority or supermajority voting requirements on certain decisions
  • Buy-Sell obligations, options or rights of first refusal
  • Issues surrounding termination and dissolution of a corporation
  • Employment agreements for shareholders/employees
  • Bonus provisions
  • Termination of employment of a shareholder
  • Shareholders’ life insurance
  • Dispute resolution processes

Why Do I Need An Attorney To Draft A Shareholder Agreement?

A shareholder agreement should have both the company and the shareholders’ best interests in mind. As a company grows and changes, conflict may arise, and a shareholder agreement can help you avoid costly legal battles down the road. Creating this type of agreement without assistance from a skilled business contract attorney may lead to contentious shareholder disputes.

An attorney who is well-versed in business law will create a contract that helps you understand your rights and responsibilities and ensures that your interests are protected. If you’re a small business owner or shareholder, it’s particularly important to seek the counsel of an experienced lawyer who can help you create bylaws, articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, nondisclosure agreements and other legal documents that will help your business start off on the right foot and run more smoothly.

From choosing a business entity to creating an effective business succession plan and shareholder agreement, the knowledgeable attorneys at Carosella and Associates  help make starting your business a smooth process.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle My Divorce in PA?

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle My Divorce in PA?If you have decided to end your marriage, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is  whether or not you need a divorce lawyer. Although it depends on your specific circumstances, seeking the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney can put you on the right track and make the process less stressful for everyone involved.

The Risks of Handling a Divorce on Your Own

Many couples decide to divorce amicably and start with good intentions. However, dividing assets and debts, creating a parenting plan and settling issues of custody and support can quickly become contentious.  You and your spouse may believe you are on the same page, but emotions can run high once you get into serious discussions and negotiations.

When considering whether or not to hire a divorce lawyer in PA , it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions:

  • Does your spouse have an attorney?
  • Do you have children, shared property and assets or other factors that make splitting up complex?
  • Are you and your spouse able to communicate in a civil manner?
  • Do you understand the divorce process in Pennsylvania?
  • Do you know what you’re legally entitled to?

Even if your case seems straightforward and you have little shared property and no children, having an attorney review everything before your divorce becomes final is still a good idea to ensure assets are distributed equitably and help you avoid mistakes that can delay the process. It’s important to remember that even if you’re filing for no-fault divorce, you can still encounter frustrating roadblocks if a complaint is filed incorrectly or your spouse does not consent to the divorce.

Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Attorney

Many people file for divorce without the assistance of an attorney in order to cut costs, but having a lawyer handle your divorce can save you money, time and stress in the long run. Ending a marriage affects multiple aspects of your life, and the consequences of making mistakes or agreeing to unfavorable terms can be devastating and long-lasting. For example, a law firm that also provides estate planning services is a valuable resource when it comes to creating a new will and determining how your assets will be distributed in the event of your passing.

Even if you are in the initial stages of looking at divorce as an option, consider scheduling a consultation with an attorney–there are plenty of affordable divorce lawyers who will assess the complexity of your case and advise you on the best course of action to protect your rights and interests. From filing a divorce complaint with the Court of Common Pleas in your county to handling negotiations with your spouse, an attorney can provide the support and advice you need to make the process run more smoothly from beginning to end.

Whether you have questions about how to proceed with a divorce or need a divorce attorney to represent you in a challenging at-fault divorce case, our knowledgeable and understanding legal team at Carosella & Associates can help.

Traffic Violations: How to Keep Points off Your Driving Record

How to keep traffic violations points off your record

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) places points on your driving record if you are convicted of certain traffic violations. Accumulation of these points can lead to higher auto insurance premiums and license suspension, which can seriously impact your finances and affect your ability to get to work. If you’re facing points for serious traffic violations or multiple minor violations, an experienced local defense attorney may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed, lower the number of points that are placed on your driving record, and help you avoid costly fines, insurance rate increases and possible license suspension.

How Does the Point System Affect Pennsylvania Drivers?

The purpose of the PA point system is to help motorists improve their driving habits and keep the roads as safe as possible. Violations that can result in points being placed on your driving record include:

  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian using a crosswalk: 2 points
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light: 3 points
  • Careless driving: 3 points
  • Failure to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing: 5 points and 60-day license suspension
  • Speeding: Number of points depends on how fast you were going and whether you were driving in a school or work zone

Although a few points may not seem like a big deal, they can accumulate fast. If you reach six or more points on your driving record, PennDOT will take corrective action.

When your driving record reaches six or more points for the first time, you are required to take a written examination. If you successfully pass the examination within 30 days, you can avoid driver’s license suspension and have two points removed from your record. The second time six points are reached, you face a 15-day license suspension and must take an on-road driving test. The third time six points are reached you are subject to a PennDOT hearing. If your driving record reaches 11 or more points, your license will be suspended automatically.

Points for Excessive Speeding

If you exceeded the posted speed limit by 31 MPH or more, you may be charged with excessive speeding and receive written notice of a mandatory PennDOT hearing. At the hearing, a PennDOT examiner will review your driving record and recommend that you take an on-road driving test or have your license suspended for 15 days. If you do not attend the hearing, your license will automatically be suspended for 60 days and you will receive five points on your driving record. At any PennDOT hearing, it is vital to have an experienced traffic violations lawyer by your side to protect your rights and minimize the amount of points placed your driving record.

Avoiding and Removing Points

If you haven’t had a traffic conviction for 12 consecutive months after the date of your last offense, you may have three points taken off your record.

The best way to avoid accumulation of points is to drive safely and follow all traffic laws, but mistakes happen. Seeking the counsel of an attorney who is well-versed in state and local traffic law can mean the difference between losing your license or staying on the road. Carosella & Associates’ skilled defense attorneys in West Chester will fight to protect your rights and help you win your case.

3 Steps to Take If Your Business Has Been Sued

3 Steps to Take If Your Business Has Been SuedWhether it is a dissatisfied customer, someone who claims they got hurt on your property, or a disgruntled employee, any business can be vulnerable to being sued for a multitude of reasons. It is vital to know what to do if your business is being sued to avoid any costly mistakes or legal issues that may arise. Experienced business attorneys can help you understand what you are up against, negotiate on your behalf and develop effective strategies to protect your livelihood and your reputation.

1. Do not Ignore a Demand Letter or Formal Complaint

You may receive a demand letter before being formally sued, which typically comes from a person or business who is requesting that you take corrective action to resolve or fix an issue. Although a demand letter is not a lawsuit, consulting lawyers who are well-versed in small business legal matters can help you decide how to respond and help you reach an agreement and avoid being sued altogether. If you are served with a formal complaint, review it immediately and find out how soon you must respond.

2. Contact an Attorney

It is rarely a good idea to communicate directly with a plaintiff, their attorney, or their insurance company.  The sooner you contact an attorney, the more time your lawyer has to gather information, review the facts of your case, interview witnesses, and develop a defense strategy with you. Be candid with your lawyer about everything pertaining to the lawsuit. Being honest with an attorney who you can trust and rely on can ensure that you receive the best legal representation possible. Keeping secrets will only make your case vulnerable to surprises that could affect the outcome of the case.

3. Contact Your Insurance Agent

It is  important to take action quickly and notify your insurance company promptly to make sure your insurance coverage is preserved. Depending on the specific situation, there are various types of insurance policies that may cover you in the event of a lawsuit.  Third-party injury claims are typically covered by general liability insurance and lawsuits brought by employees may be covered by employment practices liability insurance, which is sometimes included in workers’ compensation policies. If you are a member of a union, trade association or other professional organization, check to see if they have policies available that may cover your business if you are sued.  Make sure you, your attorney and insurance agent review and verify all policies carefully.

Unfortunately, your own insurance company may not have your best interests at heart. Even if your insurance company’s counsel is involved in defending your case, having your own lawyer to review contracts and potential settlement agreements can ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

At Carosella & Associates, our experienced team is dedicated to providing top-notch legal representation that will protect your rights and interests. Our skilled business lawyers in West Chester can help you find effective solutions for any legal situation that may arise and work toward the best possible outcome for your case.

3 Tips for Creating a Parenting Plan in a Divorce

3 Tips for Creating a Parenting Plan in a DivorceIssues surrounding divorce and child custody can be challenging. Having an experienced attorney prepare a parenting plan not only outlines how your children will be cared for, it shows that your children are a priority and you are dedicated to putting their interests and well-being first. An experienced divorce attorney will determine the specifics that should be included in your parenting plan and help you work out the details of how you will co-parent with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Vital Elements of a Parenting Plan

Each family situation is unique and there are many different factors that affect your parenting plan. Your children’s ages, school schedules and parents’ work schedules are essential issues to take into consideration when creating a plan that will run smoothly.

1. Create a parenting schedule. One of the most important parts of your parenting plan should include the details on how you and your co-parent will physically care for your children. If possible, work with each other to coordinate schedules and come up with a plan that allows both parents to spend plenty of time with the children. Negotiating custody for holidays, vacations and birthdays can be particularly contentious, especially when a schedule for these special days isn’t fully settled in advance. Your family law attorney, who is well equipped to anticipate contentious issues, will be able to handle negotiations regarding issues of custody and can make it easier to come to a fair agreement and help both parties avoid conflict and stress.

2. Outline plans for making big decisions. Education, healthcare, religious practices, and discipline are just a few important issues that should be discussed and included in your parenting plan. Negotiating these decisions ahead of time and including specifics about how they will be handled can facilitate better communication if problems arise down the road. Your attorney will advise you on how to move forward if you and your co-parent can’t come to a reasonable agreement on these decisions.

3. Address child-related expenses. Finances are often a source of serious dispute when it comes to divorce and child custody. That’s why it’s vital to have an attorney help you develop a specific plan that lays out clear expectations about how your children will be supported. You may decide that certain expenses can be split 50/50 while others may be divided differently. Medical insurance, life insurance and estate planning services are also vital subjects that your attorney should help you address in a parenting plan, especially if you have a child who may benefit from having a special needs trust for their future care.

You and your co-parent may not be together anymore but as long as it’s safe, children deserve to have a close, loving relationship with both of their parents. Seeking the counsel of a divorce attorney in West Chester who is well-versed in the nuances of family law will ensure that your parenting plan addresses important details you may have missed. At Carosella & Associates, our experienced attorneys will guide you in creating a plan that clearly defines rules, expectations and boundaries while keeping your children’s best interests in mind.

Is a Letter of Intent Legally Binding in a Real Estate Deal?

Is a Letter of Intent Legally Binding in a Real Estate Deal?Many real estate transactions may seem straightforward, but all kinds of pitfalls can arise that may make or break a deal. One important document that has the potential to get you in a bind is the letter of intent. You may not think of a simple letter as a legally binding contract, but sometimes it can be. To ensure your interests are protected, it’s vital to seek the counsel of an experienced contract attorney who is well-versed in Pennsylvania law to draft and review all documents involved in your real estate transaction.

What is a letter of intent?

A letter of intent is an informal document that establishes certain terms of a proposed deal. They are commonly used in commercial real estate transactions, but may be utilized in more complex residential deals such as FSBO transactions that involve selling or buying property without a real estate agent. Letters of intent do have advantages—they can get the ball rolling on a real estate deal, help buyers provide documentation to secure financing and set forth terms that can be negotiated before a legally binding real estate purchase agreement is drafted.

How can a letter of intent be legally binding?

Under Pennsylvania law, a letter of intent can be legally enforceable if it outlines crucial terms of a real estate deal, including purchase price, property description, the buyer’s and seller’s names and a specific closing date. A letter of intent must clearly state that the parties do not intend for it to be legally binding in order for it to avoid becoming  enforceable down the road.

A skilled real estate attorney will know the specific language to include in your letter of intent to ensure that it is non-binding. Your letter of intent should clearly state that the deal is contingent upon all parties entering into a fully negotiated and executed final agreement, which can protect you from being legally bound by terms set forth in the letter. Your lawyer may also include other items, such as a specific date for buyers to complete due diligence to prevent the transaction from dragging on or having the buyer turn around and say the letter of intent is legally binding months later.

Do you need a letter of intent for your real estate transaction?

A real estate lawyer in PA can also advise you on whether you need a letter of intent at all. Depending on the circumstances, if all parties are satisfied with the initial terms, a letter of intent may not be necessary.

A Real Estate Lawyer Will Protect Your Rights and Interests

Whether you’re buying or selling a home or commercial property, our West Chester real estate lawyers provide invaluable legal advice and resources that will save you time and money and help you avoid common mistakes that occur during the real estate transaction process. At Carosella & Associates, we guide you through the process every step of the way and help make your real estate transaction smooth sailing from start to finish.

The Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Commercial Lease

The Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Commercial LeaseWhether you’re just starting out or you are a seasoned business owner, making sure your commercial lease is beneficial to you as a tenant is vital. There are several types of commercial leases, and some important factors must be taken into account before you even think of signing anything. Seeking the counsel of an experienced real estate transaction lawyer to help you understand this complex contract and guide you through the negotiation process will ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Consider the Length of Your Commercial Lease

Depending on how well your business is established and what type of business you’re in, it may be a good idea to sign a short-term lease in the beginning. A term of one or two years with an option to renew is usually best for small businesses. That way you’re not committed for a long period of time but your lease gives you the option to stay if it’s a good fit. However, if your business is a very location-dependent establishment such as a restaurant, a long-term lease of five or more years may make more sense.

Do Your Research on Local Rent Costs, Zoning and Other Requirements

Check out comparable rents in the area and talk with your city or township zoning officer before you start negotiations on any lease. Zoning rules vary according to location, and if something is prohibited or you need to get a variance, it’s best to be aware of these facts and consult with an experienced attorney before you waste your time, money and energy negotiating a commercial lease.

Negotiate Concessions

Some commercial leases require the tenant to be responsible for property taxes, utilities, maintenance, repairs and any damage to the property, including costly expenses such as fixing or repairing HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. If you decide to sign a long-term lease, it is essential to insist on certain concessions from the landlord. This means asking for items in relation to the length of the lease such as move-in allowances, free rent and renovations or improvements to the property at the landlord’s expense. A knowledgeable lawyer for contracts will advise you on which modifications to the lease will benefit your unique situation and ensure that the contract you end up signing is in your best interest.

Include Important Clauses

There are various clauses to protect your interests that should be included in any commercial lease. Making sure the lease includes a clause that allows you to sublease the property is important in case your business needs to relocate or close before the term expires. A co-tenancy clause will allow you to break the lease if a large anchor tenant that affects your business moves out.

Seek the Assistance of a Qualified Attorney

Leases are legal contracts and should be thoroughly scrutinized and understood before you even consider signing. Carosella & Associates’ real estate and business lawyers at our law firm in West Chester will ensure you get the best possible deal for your particular situation.

The Advantages of Setting Up a Special Needs Trust for Your Child

The Advantages of Setting Up a Special Needs Trust for Your ChildHaving a solid estate plan in place is essential, especially if you want to make sure a disabled loved one is taken care of after your passing or incapacitation. A Special Needs Trust is created specifically for the benefit of a person with physical or mental disabilities who lacks the capacity to manage their own finances.
 
 
 

How Will A Special Needs Trust Help My Loved One?

Special needs trusts are often created to ensure that a beneficiary won’t lose government assistance such as Medicaid, SSI, vocational rehabilitation and other vital benefits. Leaving assets to your disabled loved one without a trust can disqualify them for these types of government assistance programs.

Typically, a Special Needs Trustee does not give money directly to a beneficiary. Instead, they use the trust assets to purchase certain necessities and extras for your loved one. A trustee can buy services and products for your loved one for vacations, hobbies, recreation, home furnishings, education, home companions and even minor items like toiletries.

The assets in a Special Needs Trust are also protected from creditors.  If your estate or the beneficiary of the trust is sued and a judgment is awarded creditors cannot seize the assets in the Special Needs Trust. Using an experienced attorney who offers comprehensive estate planning services to create a Special Needs Trust ensures that all of your child’s needs are taken care of and their financial future is protected. Not only that, your attorney can assist you with other important estate planning matters such as drafting a will and business succession planning.

Choosing a Trustee

A Trustee is a person or entity you choose to be in charge of the assets in the Trust.  The Trustee must comply with the Trust terms and responsibly manage and invest assets to ensure that the assets are used to their fullest potential. This is extremely important if the beneficiary relies on the Trust for his/her care and support.  It’s much easier for another party to take control of your child’s money if assets are not administered by a trustee. The Trustee can make sure that your loved one is not victimized by unscrupulous people who may try to take advantage.

Carefully choosing the right Trustee for your child’s Special Needs Trust is vital. If a reliable, trustworthy family member or friend is not available, having experienced wills and trusts attorneys manage the assets in your loved one’s trust can give you peace of mind knowing that their best interests will be fully protected after you’re gone.

Why Do I Need An Attorney To Create A Special Needs Trust?

There are countless unforeseen circumstances that can impact your loved one’s financial future. Many important things you should consider when preparing a will may not even come to mind unless you seek the advice of an experienced attorney. At Carosella & Associates, our estate planning lawyers address your family’s specific needs and help you develop effective solutions to safeguard your loved ones’ financial future.

What are some examples of misdemeanors?

What are some examples of misdemeanors?In Pennsylvania, misdemeanor offenses can have serious consequences, including thousands of dollars in fines, jail time and a permanent stain on your record. Misdemeanor charges are not something to take lightly, so it’s vital to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the legal process and ensure your rights and interests are protected.
 
 
 

Types of Crimes that are Considered Misdemeanors in PA

Alcohol-related crimes such as DUI, carrying an open container, minor in possession of alcohol and other offenses. The law varies by jurisdiction, so it’s important to seek the counsel of a skilled local criminal defense attorney who understands the complexities of both state and local law.

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor charge that often goes hand-in-hand with alcohol-related offenses and more serious charges. Typically, disorderly conduct includes any type of unruly behavior that provokes a disturbance.

Simple assault is a very serious charge in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of physically attacking another person with the intent to cause harm or physical injury, the repercussions can include significant jail time and made it difficult to find employment, housing and other basic necessities that allow you to make a living. Depending on how severe the assault was, charges can even lead to a felony conviction.

Criminal mischief includes various crimes such as vandalism and destruction of public or private property. Although committing a crime like drawing graffiti on a building may seem minor, if you are over the age of 18 and have a previous criminal record you may face dire consequences for your actions.

Criminal impersonation can be charged when someone pretends to be another person with intent to defraud or injure someone else, as in cases of identity theft and insurance fraud. It is also illegal to impersonate a public servant such as a police officer or other law enforcement official.

Trespassing offenses can be charged at several levels under Pennsylvania law. If you are illegally found on or inside a property that does not belong to you or are in violation of a Protective Order, having a lawyer who is well-versed in misdemeanor and domestic violence offenses to represent you is vital.

Penalties for Misdemeanors in Pennsylvania

There are three basic types of misdemeanors in Pennsylvania, which include first, second, and third-degree offenses. First-degree misdemeanor offenses are the most serious type, and can lead to significant jail time and costly fines. Some misdemeanor crimes in Pennsylvania have mandatory minimum sentences associated with them.

The maximum penalties for misdemeanors in PA are:

  • First-degree: Up to five years in jail and $10,000 in fines
  • Second-degree: Up to two years in jail and $5,000 in fines
  • Third-degree: Up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines

If you or a loved one is facing misdemeanor charges in Pennsylvania, our experienced West Chester criminal lawyer at Carosella & Associates will fight for your rights and work to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Using Estate Planning to protect assets

Using Estate Planning to protect assets

There are multiple facets to estate planning, and asset protection plays a large role in this important process. Regardless of your age, seeking the counsel of experienced probate and estate lawyers who will advise you on how to use estate planning to protect your assets can give you peace of mind and help ensure that your family’s financial future is protected.

Estate Planning and Asset Protection

Each person’s circumstances are different, but one of the most important estate planning goals for many people is to ensure that their assets are passed on to their beneficiaries, not their creditors. This is just one reason why creating a will is not enough—there are many other essential estate planning documents that serve an important purpose in preserving and protecting everything you’ve worked hard for.

Trusts

A trust is very common estate planning tool that is used to protect assets. A trust is a legal document in which one person or qualified entity, the trustee, holds property for the benefit of another, the beneficiary. The property in the trust can be any kind of real or personal property, including money, real estate, stocks, and other personal possessions. There are different types of trusts, so it is vital to make sure you seek estate planning services from a seasoned attorney who will advise you on everything you need to know about trusts.

One type of trust that protects your assets from creditors (and some estate taxes) is an irrevocable trust. When an irrevocable trust is created, the grantor no longer owns the assets that were used to fund it, and cannot modify, control or terminate the trust. Irrevocable trusts are often used for life insurance planning and setting aside education funds for children. Assets left in a fully discretionary trust with a third-party trustee can provide maximum assets protection for beneficiaries.

Because the grantor no longer owns the assets held in an irrevocable trust, a future creditor cannot go after them. However, it’s important to note that a transfer to a trust can be undone if a court finds that the trust was created with the intention of deceiving creditors. That’s why planning ahead and creating trusts to shield your assets before you are subject to any liability is vital.

With a revocable trust, grantor maintains ownership of the assets, and can change or revoke the trust at any time. As such, a revocable trust does not protect assets—creditors can force the owner of a revocable living trust or its estate to terminate the trust and surrender the assets.  The extent of protection a trust provides can vary widely from state to state. If you live in Pennsylvania, seeking estate planning services in West Chester, PA will ensure that you are working with attorneys who are well-versed in the complexities of state law.

Although a will is also a vital estate planning document, there are significant differences between a will and a trust. Unlike a will, a trust is a private document. A will must be filed in the probate court before it is determined to be valid. Most types of trusts allow the assets in the trust to avoid probate. Probate is typically a public process. If you are concerned about privacy, this is just one of a number of important things to consider when preparing a will.

While a will doesn’t protect your assets from creditors or probate, dying without a will can make circumstances very difficult and complicated for your family. Seeking the services of lawyers who deal with wills to help you draft this vital document will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and help your loved ones avoid conflict and save time and money.

Gifting Assets

Gifting assets to family members, friends or charity can keep them safe from creditors as well, but it’s important to keep in mind that these types of transfers are irrevocable and you cannot force a return of these assets, which can be problematic if the issue of divorce arises.

Insurance

Carrying an adequate amount of homeowners, auto and life insurance is essential to protect your assets and your family. Make sure to include plenty of liability coverage and raise your insurance deductible or eliminate dual coverage to save on premiums. An umbrella policy is an economical way to insure against many different types of risks, and provides coverage for claims that may be excluded by other liability policies. It’s important to shop around for all types of insurance—costs can vary significantly from one company to another.

Tenancy by the Entirety

The manner in which your assets are titled can also protect them from creditors. Pennsylvania law usually treats those assets owned jointly with a spouse as “tenants by the entireties” property, which refers to a way of titling joint property only available to married couples.  In most instances, Pennsylvania law protects this type of property from the creditors of either individual spouse. For example, if your spouse injures someone and a judgment is entered against him or her in excess of any liability insurance that there might be, any assets that the two of you own as tenants by the entireties cannot be seized to satisfy that judgment.

529 & Retirement Plans

A 529 plan is a savings plan that’s designed to encourage saving for future education costs. Assets deposited into a 529 plan for children, grandchildren, stepchildren, step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews provide certain tax advantages and may be protected from creditors, and can be an effective way to shield large sums of money. There are fees and expenses associated with 529 plans, but the tax benefits often outweigh these costs.

Depending on the circumstances, assets contributed to retirement plans such as a 401(k) or IRA may also be sheltered from creditors.

Planning for Incapacity

Not only is it vital to have a lawyer write up your will, there are other important estate planning and asset protection documents that should be in place in the event of your incapacitation or death. Properly drafted power of attorney is essential to ensure that both your health and assets are protected in the event of your incapacitation. Power of attorney for health care lets you designate someone to make decisions about your medical care and end-of-life options if you become incapacitated and are unable to convey your wishes.  If you are incapacitated, a power of attorney for finances will allow your agent to take care of financial affairs such as paying bills and selling property without any need for court involvement. Again, setting up useful estate planning tools like trusts ahead of time can protect some of your assets from being wiped out by long-term care expenses in the future.

A durable power of attorney for finances is especially important when it comes to succession planning for your business. Failing to have a proper exit plan for your business can put your assets in jeopardy, which can lead to financial problems in retirement and affect the distribution of your assets when you’re gone.

Entity Formation

Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs) can be a valuable asset protection tool. When you form an FLP, you transfer ownership of a particular asset or assets to the FLP in return for an ownership interest in the FLP itself.  Many states give these entities “charging order” protection, whereby creditors can only reach a distribution made from the entity to an individual owner. If structured properly, these entities can have numerous other advantages beyond asset protection, such as providing discounts for gift and estate tax valuation purposes, providing a vehicle for the consolidation and effective management and control of family assets and keeping family assets within the family. Also, perhaps most importantly, a liability arising with respect to the assets held by the entity should be limited to the entity’s assets, thus insulating other assets of the owner of the entity from any such liability.

At Carosella & Associates, our experienced estate planning and business attorneys can help you create an effective asset protection plan that will ensure your assets are preserved today and in the future.