From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “I want to make things easy for my children. How Do You Avoid Probate in PA?”
Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk
How Do You Avoid Probate in PA?
The initial question is, do you understand what you are trying to avoid? Lots of people say you should avoid probate, but don’t even know what that word means. Every state has a probate process. In some states, such as New York and California, probate is a painful process. In other states, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, the process is much easier.
First, understand probate? When a person dies, they don’t get to take “it” with them. Probate is the process where the state oversees that the deceased person’s assets end up in the right hands. That could be a creditor like the IRS or a reverse mortgage company. It could also be a friend or a charity. Probate, in its most simple form, is the process where the state helps make sure the right people get your things.
The Pennsylvania probate process starts with the Register of Wills. Each county has a Register. This is an elected position. When a person dies, the executor takes the Will and death certificate to the Register. The Register’s job is to review these documents and then give the Executor paperwork recognizing him or her as the estate’s executor.
How Do You Avoid Probate in PA?
If you wish to avoid the process of registering the will and avoid probate, you have several options.
- Jointly holding assets. During your lifetime, you could put another person as a co-owner on your real estate or bank accounts. Then, at your death, the co-owner can claim your share. This avoids probate. But, during your lifetime, someone else is a co-owner of your asset. Many people don’t care to “share” their property during their lifetime.
- Naming Someone a Beneficiary. Another method is to name a person as the beneficiary of your asset. This is a typical method for Life Insurance and IRAs. Some assets, such as land, don’t have a beneficiary option. Further, by naming a person directly as a beneficiary, you don’t provide them any protection from divorce or creditors.
- Using a Revocable Living Trust. This option gives you control over your assets during your lifetime and allows you to set up protective trusts for your loved ones after your death. Most people like the idea that their heirs can access assets when needed but can’t lose them in a divorce or a creditor. A Revocable Trust is also a useful tool when you are older and need help managing your assets. Your child or trusted friend can help you, but you still keep ultimate control.
Would you like more detail? Follow this link to my article, Revocable Living Trusts: Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: How Do You Avoid Probate in PA?
I hope you found helpful this short article responding to How Do You Avoid Probate in PA. I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you would like to know more, or have an estate that needs our help, contact us. Let our Probate and Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
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