Is gifting a good alternative to probate?

Some people in Westmoreland County will try various means to avoid sending their estate through probate. One way is to simply give your beneficiaries the assets and property you want them to have before you die. It seems simple enough, but like any legal matter concerning your estate, you need to consider the pros and cons of going through with giving away your Pennsylvania property in the forms of gifts.

The reason why gifting assets avoids probate is because you are transferring ownership of your assets to another party before you die. A probate court cannot touch the assets because they are no longer part of your estate. However, gifting is not always a simple process. FindLaw explains that gifting requires some planning before you go forward with it. Even with proper preparation, unexpected events can still thwart your desires. For example, if another party has a claim on an asset you own, they may contest the transfer of ownership.

Another problem is that your gifts may be subject to gift taxes. Passing along your assets to your heirs will come with a price tag if the assets are too high in value. You would need to research federal tax law and the tax laws of Pennsylvania to understand any tax obligations you might have. You might also need the help of a professional estate attorney to figure out if gift taxes apply to you.

Because of the hurdles you may have to jump over to ensure your assets are successfully gifted to your heirs, it is better to consider gifting assets if they are small and not so high in value that they qualify for taxation. Because the estate needs of Pennsylvanians will differ, do not consider this article as legal advice. Read it only for general information purposes.