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Having a will to avoid probate

Probate is a legal term that some may not be familiar with. But, unlike many other areas of law, probate is an area that almost everyone will encounter at some point in life - or, at least, their assets will go through the probate process. When it comes to probate, the most important document is a will.

A will that has been drafted correctly will direct the probate court and the executor of the will how to pay debts and assets, plan funeral arrangements and distribute assets. If a person's will is deemed valid, it is the main guiding document for the probate process.

However, there are other types of documents that can be included in an estate plan as well. For example, Pennsylvania residents may be interested in establishing a trust in order to transfer assets into the trust while they are still alive, at which time the trust will legally own the assets in question. The terms of the trust will then determine what happens to the assets in the trust - not the probate court. Other types of financial documents and accounts can pass to others outside of probate, too. For example, many Pennsylvania residents have life insurance policies, which designate a beneficiary to receive the insurance payout upon death. These payouts occur outside of the probate process.

Pennsylvania residents of all types of means and with many different family dynamics can benefit from having a comprehensive estate plan drafted. When valid copies of these documents are available, family members and friends will know how the loved one wanted their assets to be distributed, along with other important wishes.

Source:, "Taking action for your money: Estate planning basics," Feb. 1, 2018

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