About Thomas J. Barnes

Estate Planning & Business Attorney

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Tom Barnes is an estate planning and business lawyer. As an estate planner, he helps people and their families plan for incapacity, the distribution of their assets to those they want to get them, and the minimization of death taxes. As a business lawyer, Tom counsels business owners on matters like setting up the business and choosing the right form of entity, contracts, financing, regulatory compliance, taxes and dissolution. Tom also has expertise in commercial real estate and in federal securities laws.

Estate Planning

As an estate planning attorney, Tom prepares both wills and trusts, and lifetime planning documents for clients. Lifetime planning documents include financial powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney or advance directives. If appropriate for a client’s needs and wishes, we prepare living trusts and provide advice on what a living trust can accomplish, as well as their advantages and disadvantages, the administration of the trust during the life of the grantor, and the Pennsylvania inheritance taxation of trusts. Also as an estate planning lawyer, Tom counsels clients on non-tax planning issues relating to spouses, such as post-nuptial and pre-nuptial agreements, and a surviving spouse’s elective share.

As a lawyer who prepares wills and trusts, Tom assists clients with planning and drafting issues relating to non-spouse beneficiaries, such as children and other younger beneficiaries. Tom provides advice on the use of spendthrift trusts, gifts under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, Section 529 plans, and the appointment of guardians, and trustees for minor beneficiaries. Tom also assists clients with planning for disabled beneficiaries, with special needs trusts and the appointment of fiduciaries such as executors, trustees and guardians.

Tom counsels clients on inheritance law in Pennsylvania, particularly other methods of transferring assets to heirs. These other distribution methods include the joint ownership of bank accounts, securities accounts, retirement accounts, and real estate. Tom assists clients with issues relating to joint ownership and beneficiary designations. Tom assists in solving problems that arise from intestacy (dying without a will), and the rules of intestate succession such as those governing the share of surviving spouse, and the shares of persons other than surviving spouse.

As an estate planning attorney, Tom provides tax reduction strategies concerning the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax, including planning for the use of joint assets such as real estate, bank and investment accounts, financial instruments, life insurance, and retirement accounts. Tom advises clients on what assets are subject to inheritance tax, and which transfers of assets are exempt from the tax. Such assets include inter vivos transfers (that is, made while alive), and many other types of assets. These include tenancy by entireties property, transfers to domestic governments, transfers to charitable, fraternal organizations and veterans’ organizations, life insurance, intangible personal property of nonresidents, advancements, real estate, and intangible personal property located outside of Pennsylvania owned by a Pennsylvania resident. Other examples of exempt assets are a power over which decedent had a general or limited power of appointment, social security and similar government death benefits, certain pension, stock bonus, profit-sharing and other retirement plans, trusts and similar arrangements for spouses, farms and agricultural property and, in certain situations, ownership of the family business.

As a lawyer who prepares wills and trusts, Tom handles matters relating to domicile planning. Your domicile is the state or country you treat as your permanent home. It determines the state that has primary taxing authority over you, such as for income taxes, personal property taxes, Inheritance taxes, state estate taxes, and sales and use taxes.

In his practice as an estate planning lawyer, Tom advises clients on strategies for reducing or eliminating the federal estate and gift tax, such as by the use of lifetime gifts, the portability of the Basic Exclusion Amount, and of the Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion Amount.

As a Montgomery County probate attorney, Tom advises the personal representative of the estate of the decedent, that is, the executor or administrator, concerning the estate’s obligation to file the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return with the Register of Wills, and pay the Inheritance Tax. Tom provides advice as to when to file the return, and how to obtain the discount for early payment of the tax.  

Tom represents heirs and executives in will contests, and litigation to validate or invalidate trusts, and in contests concerning the administration of estates and trusts.

As an elder law attorney, Tom provides advice to clients on understanding the Medicare system. Clients come to Tom for advice on the scope and extent of Medicare coverage, and the benefits available from Medicare. Tom counsels clients on Medicaid law and on Medicaid law issues important to his clients such as how to enroll in Medicare, and the impact of Medicare income limits for those living in Pennsylvania. Clients are faced with concerns about Medicare cost sharing, in-patient hospital care, the Part A benefit period, the availability of skilled nursing facility care hospice care under Medicare Part A, hospital inpatient vs. outpatient status, the effects of outpatient status, and enhancing basic Medicare Coverage. Tom is familiar with Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Part B, and issues of integrating Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and Dual Eligible coverage under Medicaid and Medicare.

Some of Tom’s recent estate planning and probate law matters for his clients include:

  • Counseling a high net worth client on methods for minimizing federal estate and gift tax, including the portability of the Deceased Spouse Unused Exemption.
  • Preparing a will with gifts to charitable beneficiaries.
  • Advising a married couple on the benefits and disadvantages of an Irrevocable Medicaid Trust.
  • Representing the administrator of an insolvent estate in connection with a court-approved payment of creditors’ claims.
  • Counseling the executor of an estate on the sale of the decedent’s real estate holdings.
  • Representing a co-heir in contesting the validity of a signature on a codicil that was believed to have been forged.
  • Advising the heir of a high net worth individual on strategies for reducing federal estate tax on an illiquid corporate stock holding worth approximately $100 million.
  • Preparing wills and powers of attorney for individuals and married couples.

Business Law

As a business attorney, Tom provides general corporate and strategic business counseling to executives and owners of private companies. Tom is experienced with a range of issues, including business formation, mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financing and succession planning. As a corporate law attorney, Tom works extensively with both early-stage and mature businesses in several industries, including technology, publishing, retail, commercial real estate, and manufacturing. Tom counsels clients on contract matters with customers and suppliers, landlords and tenants, employee liability matters and the rights and obligations of company owners. Tom is also experienced in securities and corporate financing laws and transactions. Tom also represents debtors and creditors in federal bankruptcy matters.

In his business law practice, Tom represents real estate investors, developers and owners in the purchase and sale of real estate and in a wide range of commercial and residential real estate matters. Tom has experience in negotiating and documenting commercial mortgage loans for both lenders and borrowers, including traditional term loans, lines of credit and construction loans.

Some recent business law matters for Tom’s clients include:

  • Advising a corporate buyer in the acquisition of assets being divested by the seller as a carve-out of a non-core business.
  • Advising a corporate buyer in the acquisition of the assets of an existing business, including the lease of a distressed real property asset of the seller.
  • Representing a commercial lender in documenting real estate and other asset-based financing transactions.
  • Advising a shareholder with respect to rights and obligations in a negotiated sale of privately held stock in several regional manufacturing concerns.
  • Representing a commercial real estate investor in matters arising from the acquisition of distressed property at a judicial sale, including the workout of a property tax lien.
  • Representing the court-appointed receiver of three sports and fitness clubs, advising on disposition of real property, the workout of mortgage loans, and the claims of unsecured creditors
  • Counseling shareholders with interests in closely held businesses in succession planning, including the reorganization and recapitalization in furtherance of wealth transfer plans for the shareholders and their families.
  • Advising the founders of a niche publishing company in the formation and operation of the corporate entity, including corporate finance and governance matters.
  • Representing a developer in the formation and capitalization of a single purpose entity designed to acquire property for the development of a large student housing project.
  • Advising a commercial real estate investor in the renegotiation of a commercial lease.
  • Advising the founders of a retail automotive parts fabrication, manufacturing and distribution business on the structure and ownership of the business.
  • Advising an owner of commercial real estate in the transfer of title from a general partnership to a special purpose entity; providing advice on the minimization or elimination of Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax.


Tom is one of four children, and was born and raised in Ambler, Pennsylvania in a happy family. He attended Gwynedd-Mercy Academy, and still lives near where he grew up. He is a member of Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Ambler. He is an avid golfer and squash player, and likes to compete in both games.  

  • Villanova University School of Law – J.D. (1982)
  • Villanova University College of Commerce and Finance – B.S. in Accounting (1979)
  • Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, PA (1975)
  • Temple University – MBA in Finance (2004)