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Plan for the unexpected

When developing an estate plan, it's important to consider all possible situations. Although joint tenancy with survivorship is suitable for many married couples, it doesn't address every case and may leave surviving spouses to deal with Westmoreland County probate or risk the property being transferred to the wrong person.

Transferring property may become challenging when one spouse dies unexpectedly while the other is incapacitated. Since the incapacitated spouse cannot make financial decisions on their own, the court may need to appoint a guardian to handle the transfer of property. If the estate plan doesn't account for this situation, the incapacitated spouse and heirs may not receive all of the marital assets intended for them.

Wills may be used to ensure that property such as real estate and valuable personal items get into the right hands. Although documenting wishes in a will won't help a person avoid probate, having a valid will could be essential to transferring some assets. A will gives a property owner more control over their assets than doing nothing. Instead of allowing state law to dictate what happens to the assets upon the death of one spouse while the other is incapacitated, a person with a will as part of their estate plan can tell the court their intentions for their personal assets.

Instead of leaving the transfer of property up to chance, anyone who owns real estate or retirement accounts may talk to an experienced estate planning about the most effective way to transfer the assets after their death. Some options available include a transfer on death deed or beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and insurance policies. A senior might review their estate plan with an attorney periodically to ensure it continues to meet their needs.

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