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Proper planning can help avoid probate litigation

11/6/2015 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

Not every Pennsylvania family is in line with the Norman Rockwell-inspired ideal that many people aspire to. In reality, it is probably more common for families to have a blend of different personalities and approaches. While this diversity can create an interesting and entertaining sibling environment, it can also lead to serious contention when one or both parents pass on. The best way to avoid conflict and the potential for probate litigation is to take a proactive stance in regard to estate planning.

This is especially true when it comes to real estate. There are a number of options that a family can choose from in determining how to hand down one or more pieces of property. For couples, joint tenancy is a solid choice. Under this plan, both spouses own equal shares of a piece of real estate; when one dies, the other will inherit his or her share, leaving that party in full possession of the property. From that point forward, a new decision must be made as to how the property will pass down to children and grandchildren.

Tenancy in common is an attractive choice for many families as it helps to ensure that property remains within the family. Under this approach, individuals can own unequal shares in a property, and that ownership can be granted at different times. When one owner dies, his or her share is divided equally among the surviving parties.

No matter which approach is chosen, the key to estate planning success involves clear and open communication. Parents must sit down with their children and discuss the plan for passing down real estate and be prepared for questions and challenges to those decisions. By discussing the matter in depth while they are still alive, Pennsylvania parents can make great strides in avoiding probate litigation once the estate plan is called into action.

Source:, “Real Estate and Your Estate Plan: How Does It Work?“, Deborah Kearns, Oct. 29, 2015