Most adults in the United States do not have estate plans; they assume any assets they have will pass on to their closest relatives with no issues. Those who do have plans in place may not be as protected as they think if they fail to update them when necessary. Whether one is going through the estate planning process or is tasked with the responsibility of closing out a loved one's estate in Pennsylvania, the one question just about everyone has is: Can probate be avoided?
Probate is necessary if a person lacks a will when he or she dies. It is also necessary to deal with issues surrounding certain assets and any claims made against the estate. There are a few ways to avoid probate, all of which have to be done before an estate needs to be administered.
One way to avoid probate is for the testator to place assets in a revocable trust. The property then belongs to the trust rather than a person and can usually be distributed according to the directions provided in the trust documents. Another possible way to avoid probate is to use beneficiary designations. This involves the account owner naming beneficiaries to individual accounts, such as retirement funds and life insurance, before their death.
A drastic approach to protecting assets from probate is for a person to simply get rid of everything, but that is far from realistic for most people. Instead, adding another person to one's accounts so they are under joint ownership is likely the better option. When property is jointly owned, it automatically goes to the remaining party.
An experienced attorney can assist Pennsylvania residents with creating estate plans that offer all of the protections that they are looking for, including those that help keep their assets out of probate court. Legal counsel can also be of assistance to loved ones through the estate administration process when the time comes for it. With the right help, estate planning and estate administration can be completed in no time and with the best results possible.