Can I avoid probate?
A week probably does not go by in my estate planning and elder law practice that I do not hear this question. We spend a lot of time in our weekly workshops in our office answering this question and also much of our time during our free consultations also discussing this in detail. I believe that the major reason why people make this their primary question is because of a lot of information that is out in the mainstream, the media, from national companies or national spokespeople who often urge people to avoid probate at all costs.
I was very fortunate several years ago that I was able to travel the country training and teaching lawyers all over the country. It was an extremely enjoyable experience and I learned and grew tremendously from it. One of the main things that hit me during my time educating and teaching is that each and every state in the country has very different rules.
Most attorneys are only licensed in one state and typically do not get licensed in multiple states because of the exams and costs that are associated with it. It became very clear to me over the years that each state is very different in regards to its probate rules as well as how difficult probate is.
Many of the national trust companies and national spokespeople live and come out of states where the probate process is very burdensome, overwhelming, arduous, confusing, expensive, and time prohibitive. In those states, it makes a lot of sense to take steps in order to be able to avoid probate so that their clients do not have to go through those processes and spend the time and cost involved with it.
Several very good business individuals understood what a valuable opportunity it could be for them to be a spokesperson or to advertise living trusts and other opportunities to avoid probate. Rather than take the time to research each state’s rules, they make blanket statements and characterizations that seem to apply to every state but in reality do not.
Yes. There are certainly ways to avoid probate, and if the situation is correct, we will often make recommendations to do things such as creating a trust or having access jointly owned with another individual or using beneficiary designations on accounts. In our workshops, we spend a lot of time talking about these and many other opportunities to avoid probate and how to take advantage of them.
My concern is that without proper advice and guidance, oftentimes these tricks and solutions often aren’t necessary and can be overkill.
If you are interested or believe that you are interested in avoiding probate for the sake of avoiding probate, please come to one of our upcoming workshops to learn not only about probate but also about the options that we would use to avoid probate and pros and cons with those.
It is imperative that people be provided good advice in regards to this and any implications and complications that could come from decisions that are made. Remember, in Pennsylvania avoiding probate does not equate to avoiding inheritance tax.
If you would like to learn more, please give our office a call at 717-845-5390.