Probate Avoidance Strategies: Exploring Options with Your Pennsylvania Estate Attorney

Probate can be a time-consuming and costly process, prompting many individuals to explore alternatives for settling their estates efficiently and effectively. In Pennsylvania, various strategies can help you avoid or minimize the probate process, providing greater flexibility and control over the distribution of your assets. Let’s delve into some probate avoidance strategies and discuss how you can explore these options with your Pennsylvania estate attorney.

Revocable Living Trusts

One of the most popular probate avoidance strategies is the establishment of a revocable living trust. By transferring assets into a trust during your lifetime, you retain control over those assets while avoiding probate upon your death. Upon your passing, assets held in the trust can be distributed to beneficiaries according to your instructions, bypassing the probate process entirely. 

Working with your Pennsylvania estate attorney, you can create a customized revocable living trust that meets your specific needs and goals.

Joint Ownership with Rights of Survivorship

Joint ownership of assets with rights of survivorship allows the property to pass directly to the surviving joint owner upon the other owner’s death without the need for probate. Common forms of joint ownership include joint bank accounts, real estate held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, and joint brokerage accounts. However, it’s essential to carefully consider the implications of joint ownership, as it may expose assets to the creditors or liabilities of other joint owners.

Beneficiary Designations

Certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries to receive proceeds upon your death. By specifying beneficiaries directly, these assets bypass probate and pass directly to the designated individuals. 

Regularly reviewing and updating beneficiary designations with the guidance of your Pennsylvania estate attorney ensures that your wishes are accurately reflected and that assets are distributed according to your intentions.

Gift Giving and Lifetime Transfers

Another probate avoidance strategy involves making gifts or transfers of assets during your lifetime. By transferring assets to loved ones before your death, you can reduce the size of your estate subject to probate and potentially minimize estate taxes. However, it’s crucial to consider the gift tax implications and consult your estate attorney to ensure that your gifting strategy aligns with your overall estate planning goals.

Small Estate Procedures

In Pennsylvania, estates valued at $50,000 or less may qualify for simplified probate procedures known as small estate administration. By utilizing small estate procedures, you can expedite the settlement process and reduce administrative costs. Your Pennsylvania estate attorney can advise you on whether your estate qualifies for small estate administration and guide you through the necessary steps to take advantage of this option.


Exploring probate avoidance strategies with your Pennsylvania estate attorney can help you achieve your estate planning goals while minimizing the burden of probate for your loved ones. Whether through the establishment of a revocable living trust, joint ownership arrangements, beneficiary designations, lifetime transfers, or small estate procedures, there are various options available to tailor your estate plan to your specific needs and preferences. Consult with your estate attorney to discuss these strategies and determine the best approach for your individual circumstances.