The reality of probate court is one of those life complications that people tend to ignore until it becomes pressing business. When a loved one dies, people in Pennsylvania suddenly find themselves with a lot of challenging questions that they may not know how to answer.
Every situation gives rise to different estate administration needs and probate questions. However, there’s one question that people ask more than almost any other. Most people who have lost a loved one want to know whether every estate in Pennsylvania has to go through probate court. The answer is that many estates can bypass the probate process if loved ones can benefit from very specific legal criteria.
Small estates can request streamlined proceedings
Full probate proceedings with court hearings and oversight won’t be necessary for every estate making its way through the Pennsylvania probate courts. If the total value of the assets in the estate is less than $50,000, there is a simplified probate process available.
Larger estates will be subject to more oversight. However, those with more assets are more likely in many cases to engage in advance planning that could help their estates bypass probate proceedings.
Advanced plans can diminish probate requirements
If a testator recognizes that the property they own is valuable enough to trigger probate requirements, then they can create a plan ahead of time that can keep their estate or at least their most important resources out of probate court.
One common strategy involves creating a trust. Assets in a trust are not part of someone’s estate because they do not belong to the decedent but rather to the trust. Strategic gifts made while someone is still alive can also diminish their estate and allow them to witness loved ones enjoying their inheritances.
Some testators will even put together special documents to transfer ownership to others rapidly after their death. They might file transfer-on-death designations with financial institutions so that their checking, savings, retirement or investment accounts can transfer directly to a chosen beneficiary. They could execute a deed to keep their home out of probate court.
The exact way that someone may attempt to keep assets out of probate court will vary depending on their family circumstances and resources. Many families will need to look not just at the value of an estate but also someone’s estate planning paperwork to determine whether probate court is necessary. Learning more about Pennsylvania estate and probate laws with the assistance of an experienced legal professional can help those who are hoping to inherit from an estate and those who are tasked with administering one.