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Things to know about probate in Pennsylvania

Traditionally, when a person passes away, their estate will go into probate where property owned by the deceased person is properly transferred to the designated heir. But because of the time and costs associated with this process, some people all over the nation try to avoid the probate process entirely, using other estate planning tools to meet the same ends.

One tool some people use to avoid probate litigation is a revocable living trust. This estate planning tool allows a person to establish who will get their property upon death. It can be changed at anytime during a person's lifetime and is similar in nature to a living will, which also establishes beneficiaries of an estate.

But if there are other estate planning tools that can help a person circumvent probate litigation, why does our state still have this process? The main reason is to prevent fraud that could cause considerable problems for beneficiaries and creditors upon a person's death.

Unlike other states where legal fees for probate are considerably high and the process can take several months, here in Pennsylvania, probate litigation is different. Fees here in our state are kept relatively low compared to the rest of the nation and personal representatives who handle the probate process are given broad powers to help expedite the process as well.

But whether you choose to avoid probate or not, it's important for our Harrisburg readers to know that the estate planning process can get complicated. If you do not have the right legal representation at your side, you may easily become overwhelmed by the process and make costly mistakes that may be difficult to remedy in a timely fashion. This may not be an outcome that any of our readers, or anyone in our state, would want to occur after their own death.

Source: The Allegheny County Bar Association, "The Truth About Probate and Living Trusts in Pennsylvania," Accessed Oct. 28, 2014

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