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Tips to potentially avoid probate in Pennsylvania

The probate process can often be costly and time consuming. It is also a public process that allows anyone to discover details about what property a decedent owned and who it was intended to be distributed to. However, if real estate is the only property in an estate, the probate process may be avoided altogether. There are someoptions available to those who would like to avoid probate if possible when passing a home or other property to heirs.

The first option involves creating a trust and retitling the property in the name of the trust. When the trust grantor passes on, the person named as the beneficiary of the trust will be entitled to receive the property. The grantor gets to keep possession of the property and revise the trust at any time while he or she is still alive.

An alternate option is to title the property as a joint tenancy with survivorship rights. When the original owner passes on, title to the property will pass directly to the surviving joint tenant. Real estate may also be titled to a spouse with survivorship rights, which means that the real estate will pass directly to the surviving spouse.

Understanding probate can help an individual create an effective inheritance scheme that works both now and in the future. Those who only own real property may wish to take advantage of estate planning strategies available to provide privacy to family members. Those who need help with estate distribution strategies may wish to talk to an attorney who has experience in this area and who can make suggestions for the creation of a plan that meets a client's needs.

Source: SF Gate, "How to Avoid Probate When Real Estate Is the Only Asset to Transfer?", Joe Stone, accessed on Jan. 25, 2015

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