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    Avoid probate: A living trust

    submitted by Richard P. Wilson, Esquire

    A living trust is created by you during your lifetime. You are the grantor (owner) and trustee of the trust.

    It is designed to own your real estate and personal investments. You control the trust and can amend or revoke it at any time. 

    Any IRA account, annuity, life insurance policy is involved in the trust because there are named beneficiaries for each. Only assets in your name that would pass to family members are subject to probate. 

    The trust would terminate upon your death unless there is a specific need for it to continue. Death of the grantor is sufficient to terminate the trust. There is no need to probate because the trust is an entity that exists apart from you.

    Probate is the process whereby property of the decedent passes to heirs either by will provisions or by the law of Pennsylvania. 

    Intestate is dying without a will. Someone either becomes an executor of a will or an administrator if there is no will. Generally, an estate bank account is opened which requires an estate tax ID number to be obtained by the executor or administrator. 

    Notice has to be given to the family members. There is a charge of $150 for each $100,000 of assets in the estate or $1,500 for the first one million dollars. 

    After a two (2) year period has elapsed, you are required to respond when the estate settlement process has ended, and distributions of estate assets is finalized.

    The expense of probate and the legal requirements make the process more time consuming and tedious. 

    Generally, the only issue in finalizing the trust termination and distribution is inheritance tax that could be due.

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