When people in Pennsylvania pass away, they often leave a will behind to determine how their assets will be disbursed. In some cases, people may die without a will. In many instances, the probate court system is essential to the distribution of that person’s property to heirs. In addition, there are some situations in which people can avoid probate and transfer their property directly. While many aim to avoid probate as much as possible, it can be important to make a plan to make this a reality.
In Pennsylvania, small estates below $50,000 in value, excluding real estate, can use a summary procedure to handle probate. This limit only includes those assets that transfer through the probate process. If a person has a bank account with a joint owner or a life insurance plan that has a named beneficiary, those assets are not considered part of the estate for this purpose. They pass directly to the recipient and there is no need to go through probate. There are other types of assets that can pass directly to a named beneficiary, such as retirement accounts and investment funds. Spouses often hold assets as joint property with survivorship rights, and a surviving spouse becomes the sole owner after the other’s death.
When a person dies without a will or a trust, state laws determine how property is distributed. The probate court will determine the heirs of the person who passed away. If a person had no spouse or children, parents, siblings and other relatives will inherit.
People can aim to avoid the complications and expenses of going through probate court by making a plan for the distribution of their assets. An estate planning attorney can help them create wills, trusts and other key documents to make their vision clear.