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Estate planning under PA state law, probate and trust

York, PA |

Regarding trusts and probate in PA, if your assets are less than $800,000. should one have a revocable trust? I am trying to guide my parents who is a PA resident. I live in CA and we are advocating a trust for them but they seem to think that it's not important in their state. I would like any assistance. Thanks.

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The use of Revocable Living Trusts is much more common in Ca than in Pennsylvania. In general, Pa is a low probate fee and high tax state and they tax trusts at the same rate as estates. In many cases, a family with one or just a few children will essentially avoid the probate process by entering into a simple family settlement agreement. However, the use of trusts can still be advisable where: 1) The person is quite elderly and wants a trustee to manage assets, 2) they person is disinheriting a close relative (harder to challenge the trust), the person owns real estate or assets in multiple states, etc. In general, it may cost more to do the trust than it will actually save. I hope that this helps.
David M. Frees III, Esq.

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While some State have onerous Probate requirements and a Revocable Trust (sometimes called a Living Trust) is useful in those States, Pennsylvania (which is one of several States that I practice law in) has a rather straightforward and quick Probate process.

While each person's case is different, and has to be evaluated independently for the most part I will recommend to client's that they not have a Revocable Trust. However, when a client has more than one place they live in or with property in several states, I may recommend a Revocable Trust.

As to the level of assets, that is a whole different situation. My advise to someone with $400,000 in assets might be the same as my advise with someone with $800,000 in assets but each case has to be evaluated independently as there may be other facts that would cause the need for a Trust, whether it was an Irrevocable Trust or a Revocable Trust.

Check out my website for more information on the pros and cons of Revocable Trusts/Living Trusts.

General Disclaimer. This answer does not, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship, but is offered solely for information purposes. Since the facts of each case are different, it is important to seek out qualified counsel with whom information can be shared and assessed under an attorney-client privilege so that competent and tailored advice can be provided.

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Avoidance of probate in PA is not as important as it might be in CA. The PA probate fees are relatively low and there will be an inheritance tax on assets owned by a decedent regardless of whether or not they are considered probate or non-probate. In your case the entire $800K estate, less debts and expenses, would be subject to a 4.5% inheritance tax if there is a transfer from parent to child. There is a 0% tax on a transfer from husband to wife.

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