Avoiding Probate when Settling an Estate by Designating Beneficiaries

Three Types of Estate Assets a Beneficiary Can Protect From Probate

One of the most common ways to help your beneficiaries avoid probate when settling an estate after your death is to name beneficiaries either for specific assets or your will in general. The process of naming death beneficiaries may be done within a will, trust, or when establishing certain assets such as financial accounts and securities. In Pennsylvania probate is fairly inexpensive and easy, so talk to your estate planning lawyer and your other advisers about the probate process and what clauses you need to incorporate in your will and other important documents.

There are three main types of financial assets that can have a specific beneficiary assigned to them:

  • Payable on Death (POD) Accounts – The most popular of the asset types, this applies to accounts such as checking and savings accounts that allow you to designate a beneficiary for their value upon your death. This process is typically done when the account is first set up, but can be altered as life circumstances change.
  • Transfer on Death Registration – Pennsylvania recognizes Transfer on Death (TOD) as a way to avoid probate by transferring securities and vehicles to a designated beneficiary.
  • Retirement Accounts – This applies to retirement funds such as 401(k) and IRA accounts. Similar to POD accounts, you typically establish the beneficiary when setting up the account and can change it if future needs arise. In some cases your spouse may default as the beneficiary if you are married, or they may be inherently entitled to a portion of the account even if you name a separate beneficiary.

If your estate contains assets such as these, it’s important to work with a Pennsylvania probate attorney to make sure all of your accounts are protected in the best way possible. In some cases, you may need to alter your current account status to make sure a beneficiary is named, or you could be able to name a general beneficiary in your will or trust documentation.

No matter which method of avoiding probate you choose, the estate planning process may be much easier when working with an experienced attorney.

Let a Pennsylvania Probate Attorney Help Protect Your Loved One’s Legacy

Whether you are planning your estate to maximize the benefits your loved ones receive, or you are the executor of your loved one’s will, you may want to avoid probate when settling an estate. Many challenges may arise in the distribution process and without the proper guidance your family could end up in a messy legal process.

Your final wishes for your estate and the rights of your beneficiaries are our main focus when helping you navigate probate court and estate law. Contact the Law Offices of Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees to learn how our legal team can help you.

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