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July 2013 Archives

The Importance of Advance Health Care Directives vs. Living Wills

Why is an advance health care directive better than a living will in Pennsylvania? In June 2013, Nik Wallenda became the first man ever to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. In October of 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped from a capsule on the edge of space, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without the aid of a vehicle. Fred Mack, a Pennsylvanian from Newtown Square, recently celebrated his 100th birthday by jumping out of a plane. Thankfully, these stunts all went smoothly. However, the risk of serious, debilitating injury was very real. What happens when someone is seriously injured and can't make a decision about their medical care?

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples in Pennsylvania

Estate planning for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania continues to be extremely important to protect your partner and your legacy.  United States vs. Windsor, the landmark Supreme Court Case which landed a strong blow against the Defense of Marriage Act, was based on the unfair treatment of homosexual couples under the federal estate tax laws. So what happens in Pennsylvania where same-sex marriage is not yet legal? In Pennsylvania, heterosexual married couples and same-sex couples are treated very differently. For example, the Informal Health Care Decision Making Act allows spouses to make health care decisions for each other without any formal paperwork. Same-sex couples, since they are not legally married, are not entitled to the same privilege. Under Pennsylvania inheritance tax laws, married heterosexual spouses receive all property from a deceased spouse free of inheritance tax. Conversely, same-sex couples who are not married will be taxed at a 15% rate. If a man married to a woman dies without a will, his property will pass to her automatically. However, life partners in same-sex relationships are not entitled to any property from their deceased partner's estate. It is clear that Pennsylvania law has some catching up to do. While we wait on the law makers to make changes, how can same-sex couples plan their estates?