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How you title your property directly affects the probate process

Like many other Pennsylvania residents, when you began pondering how to structure your estate plan, you considered how to make sure that your surviving family members have access to much-needed assets as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this goal, you may want to make sure that many, if not all, of your assets do not have to go through the probate process. In most cases, the key is in how you title your property.

The primary needs of your surviving family members will probably be access to money and a place to live. Many financial institutions allow you to designate a beneficiary to your bank accounts through filling out payable-on-death forms. If you have investment accounts, the counterpart to that type of designation is a transfer on death form. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies usually require you to fill out a beneficiary designation form when an account is opened or a policy is purchased.

When it comes to real estate, the most popular option is to title the property as a joint tenancy, which allows the surviving joint tenant to take possession of the property without it going through probate. Another option is to create a living trust. The assets titled to the trust then transfer to the beneficiary or beneficiaries outside of the probate process in the manner you designate in the trust.

If ensuring that your surviving family members have immediate access to assets, then you may want to employ one or more of these strategies in order to do so. Avoiding the probate process also provides you and your family members with other benefits as well. In order to determine the best options available for you and your family, it may be a good idea to discuss your situation and needs with a Pennsylvania attorney.

Source: wtop.com, "7 common mistakes to avoid when naming your beneficiaries", Nina Mitchell, Accessed on May 4, 2018

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