After your death, your assets may go through a process called probate.
Unfortunately, probate can be tedious for your executor and family. However, in Pennsylvania, some assets automatically skip the probate process, and there are ways to ensure others avoid it.
What is probate?
Probate is a court process through which your named executor or a court-appointed executor establishes the validity of your estate plan before dividing your assets.
What assets bypass probate?
In Pennsylvania, any property owned jointly by a decedent immediately goes to the co-owner, bypassing probate court. This means you can avoid probate by titling your assets jointly with the person you intend to leave the asset to upon your death. For example, if you want to leave your home to your child, you would place their name on the deed as a joint owner.
Additionally, financial assets, such as life insurance policies or retirement plans, that specifically name a beneficiary do not need to go through the probate process.
Can you avoid probate?
If you have many assets, you should consider planning ahead to avoid probate. You could create any of the following:
- Living trust. You remain in charge until you pass. Then your named executor takes over.
- Transfer-on-death. Register securities to a beneficiary.
- Payable-on-death. List an immediate designator for your bank accounts to ensure it goes directly to whom you wish.
Pennsylvania does not allow transfer-on-death for real estate. However, you can avoid probate by placing the person’s name on the deed.
Proper planning saves your family and beneficiaries from dealing with the stress of probate and the pain of grief at the same time.