If you create a will stating how you intend to distribute your assets after your death, it will go through a court authentication process called probate.
These proceedings can be lengthy and costly for your grieving family. Thankfully, Pennsylvania law offers several ways to bypass probate.
Create a living trust
You can create a living trust, which allows you to state how you intend to distribute your assets after your death and designate a trustee to oversee the distribution. While you are alive, you remain the trustee and can make changes to the living trust. The successor trustee you name only takes over after you pass away.
Make your accounts payable-on-death
Pennsylvania allows you to name a payable-on-death beneficiary on your bank accounts to ensure the contents go directly to them upon your death without going through the probate process.
Register securities as transfer-on-death
You can also register your securities, such as bonds and stocks, to a beneficiary under a transfer-on-death registration. Then your beneficiary works with the broker directly rather than waiting out probate.
Joint own property with your beneficiary
If you want to ensure an asset, such as a piece of real estate or a vehicle, goes to someone after your death, you can choose to own the asset jointly while you are alive. Pennsylvania law passes the property directly to the joint owner as long as they have an equal share.
Keep in mind that a living trust or joint ownership may be the best option for real estate and vehicles because Pennsylvania does not allow the transfer-on-death designations for either.