What does it mean?
Let’s start with a few definitions:
Probate: A legal process whereby a Will is proved in a court and accepted as a valid document that is the true last testament of the deceased.
Estate: The net worth of a person at any point in time alive or dead. It is the sum of a person’s assets – legal rights, interests, and entitlements to property of any kind – less all liabilities at that time.
Now let’s bring it down to laymen’s term:
Probating an estate is how assets are legally passed to your heirs or beneficiaries. For large estates probating can be complex. However, in Pennsylvania, small estate probate, which is much less complex, can occur if an estate contains no more than $50,000 in assets and no real estate. If the individual does not have a Will, the probate process can happen if there is property that has to be distributed under the state intestacy law.
There are some types of inheritance that don’t have to be probated. These types include:
- Jointly owned property by the decedent and another person which is held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, such as a house or a bank account.
- Assets where a person is designated as a beneficiary, such as a retirement account or life insurance policy.
- Assets that were held in a living trust.
Something to keep in mind:
When a will is probated the information on what is being passed down is made public. Since some people wish to protect their privacy, there are ways around not having to probate a Will. If this is something you are interested in, you will want to consider using a revocable living trust. You place your assets into a trust and indicate who is the beneficiary of each asset; during your life you have those assets in your possession, but once you pass those assets are then passed to the beneficiary as stated in the trust document without the use of the probate process.
Estate planning does take time and energy to make sure everything is in place before you pass. But by following the proper procedures you can provide your family with less stress and headaches after you pass. If you have any questions when it comes to probating an estate or estate planning in general, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Sher & Associates, P.C. is a law firm located in Kutztown that can assist you in any of the following areas: business law, real estate law, and estate planning. We assist many individuals, businesses and families in and around Fleetwood, Blandon, Topton, Hamburg and Oley.