Family members may no doubt go through an emotional time when settling the estate of a loved one, and dealing with probate is an issue you don’t need to contend with alone. The probate process may cause unnecessary delays in settling a loved one’s affairs and cause frustration among the parties involved. A Pennsylvania probate attorney can help you alleviate some of the stress and frustration of the estate settlement process.


Understand the Basics and You’ll See Why You Want to Avoid Probate


Probate is the process of distributing the estate of a deceased person. An executor of the estate is often named in the will of the deceased and this party will be responsible for presiding over the probate process. In the absence of a will or designated executor, which is how most probate actions occur, a probate judge will appoint an administrator.


In planning your estate you want to make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your beneficiaries are taken care of. By neglecting to designate an executor of your will or name specific beneficiaries in asset division, you may cause unnecessary delays in the granting of your final wishes.


The Four Common Ways to Avoid Probate


As you draft your will to secure your final wishes for your estate it’s important to work with a Pennsylvania probate attorney to make sure you’re making the process to settle your estate as easy as possible on your family. There are four common ways to avoid probate when setting up the distribution of your estate:


  • Death Beneficiaries – Perhaps the most common method of avoiding probate is by designating a beneficiary for your estate upon your death. With this you can avoid much of the argument and conflict when settling an estate. You can designate specific parts of your estate to individual beneficiaries or grant the entire sum of your assets to a single party.
  • Revocable Living Trust – This option is becoming more popular to help beneficiaries avoid many of the taxes involved with the benefits they receive from an estate, and also avoid probate. In this method your assets are transferred so that the trust now owns them and not you personally. Once the trust is established, you name a trustee and the property is protected according to your wishes much like a will.
  • Joint Property Ownership – This is most useful when you jointly own property with another, such as your spouse. This means the surviving owner will retain ownership of the property upon your death.
  • Gifts – This is a less common method for avoiding probate and requires careful planning. You should talk to an attorney before attempting to gift your assets, as there are many laws about gift values that may cost your beneficiaries more than they obtain from your estate.


Your ability to use these methods depends on a number of circumstances such as marriage, number of beneficiaries, and the value of your estate and types of assets it contains. Before trying to plan an estate on your own, it’s best to look for professional help.


Choosing the Best Option to Avoid Probate


As you can see, there are several options that may help your estate avoid probate when distributing your assets. There are many specific details of how estates are handled under Pennsylvania law and matters may be more complicated if the deceased had a will filed in another state, or passed away while living elsewhere.


By working with a Pennsylvania probate attorney you can benefit from the legal experience of a professional who knows the ins and outs of the probate process. They can help you plan your estate for the best results when settling an estate with your beneficiaries’ best interests in mind.


Let a Pennsylvania Probate Attorney Help Protect Your Loved One’s Legacy


Whether you are planning your estate to maximize the benefits for your loved ones, or you are the executor of your loved one’s will, you may want to avoid probate when settling an estate. Many challenges can arise in the distribution process and without the proper guidance your family could end up in a longer than necessary legal process.


Your final wishes for your estate and the rights of your beneficiaries are our main focus when it comes to helping you navigate probate court and estate law. Contact the Law Offices of Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees to find out how our legal team can help you. Contact David Frees today – 610-933-8069.


David M. Frees, III
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Attorney, Speaker and Author