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Streamlining life in anticipation of probate

Through the years, many Pennsylvania residents accumulate personal items, accounts and other assets that they intend to pass on to their loved ones some day. The problem is that during the probate process, all of those assets must be sifted through, organized and somehow either disposed of or distributed. No matter how good a person's intentions may be, leaving a multitude of items for grieving family members to deal with may not be the best solution.

If there are certain items that an individual wants a loved one to have, it might make more sense to gift them during life. Of course, this does not mean giving away the house, a car or a bank account prematurely. However, giving away the heirloom china, helping with college tuition or bills or finding some other way to enjoy putting a smile on a loved one's face during life could do the trick.

Many Pennsylvania residents assume that the things that bring them joy will do the same for others. Unfortunately, each generation has different priorities, and it may be a good idea to discuss intentions before the time comes. As time goes on, it may be a good idea to consolidate and streamline an estate. This does not just apply to personal items, but to accounts and other assets as well. This could help surviving family members wrap up an estate with less heartache and frustration.

Even if people embrace streamlining, consolidating and minimizing their lives as they age, it may not accomplish all of their goals. Ensuring that their wishes are carried out requires careful planning. The main hurdle to a smooth and successful probate often lies in the documentation. A well-crafted estate plan could help ensure that surviving loved ones can grieve without taking on seemingly insurmountable tasks in order to close the estate and move forward.

Source: Forbes, "7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes: Leaving A Messy Estate", Bob Carlson, March 13, 2018

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