We are delighted to announce that our physical office is re-opening to our existing and new clients. To provide safety to both our clients and staff, we are adapting the CDC guidelines for social distancing while we are in the yellow phase. Rest assured, that we have and will continue to regularly clean all areas of the office especially the high-traffic areas. All attorneys and staff will have their temperature taken daily and will be wearing masks when interacting with clients. Any attorneys and staff with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will work remotely. They will then be required to follow CDCrecommended steps, including not returning to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.

As the health and safety of our clients and their families is our top priority, we are asking that our clients follow the procedures below during the yellow phase:

  1. Upon entering the building, we ask that all persons wash their hands or hand-sanitize. We will be providing access to soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
  2. We will also be taking temperatures with non-contact thermometers upon entering the office.
  3. Our office is set-up to comply with social distancing of six feet. In the conference and mediation rooms we are asking that each person sit a minimum of one chair apart from attorneys and/or staff at all times.
  4. Masks are available and will be provided open request.
  5. Teleconferences Zoom meetings, and FaceTime are available in lieu of inperson meetings if requested.
  6. We will continue to have the drop-box available for delivery of documents.

In the event that anyone is sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you reschedule your appointment or utilize the electronic forums listed above.

As each county determines the procedures that will be followed, please ask your attorney of the specific procedures regarding the county in which your case in pending.

Please note that we will also continue to accommodate the needs of new clients, who are welcome, and as always we encourage and appreciate referrals. During this uncertain and unprecedented time, please stay safe and remember that Sweeney Law Office, LLC will remain by your side for all of your family’s legal needs. We ask that you have patience during this challenging time.

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Avoiding estate tax liability

When people in Cranberry Township start putting their estate plans together, the first topic they may believe needs to be addressed is allocating funds to pay estate taxes. This is wise thinking, as their certainly is the possibility that one’s estate may be taxed (and those taxes must be paid from the estate’s assets). Yet federal regulations have been modified in recent years to help ease the burden of taxes from many hoping to leave assets for their beneficiaries. Indeed, according to information shared by the Internal Revenue Service, federal estate tax filings have decreased from 38,354 in 2008 to only 12,711 in 2017. 

This is due to increasing the federal estate tax threshold. Estates whose total taxable value comes in under this amount are not subject to federal taxes (Pennsylvania does not have a state estate tax). In 2007, that amount was $2 million. Per Forbes Magazine, the threshold is $11.4 million. Given that the average amount of a typical American estate is much less than that, many will not end up owing estate taxes. 

Married couples can also take advantage of the estate tax threshold to protect even more from estate taxes, yet it requires careful planning. The federal government allows couples to combine their unused exemption amounts (theoretically allowing them to protect up to $22.8 million for their beneficiaries). To do this, one must gift their estate to their spouses upon their deaths (the unlimited marital dedication allows one to gift up to the threshold amount tax-free). Yet doing so could push the surviving spouse’s estate above the threshold amount. To claim the deceased spouse’s unused tax exemption, the surviving spouse must file an estate tax return claiming portability the same year that the other dies. This allows that unused exemption to combined with that of the surviving spouse’s. 

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