There are various ways to pass on wealth to heirs in Pennsylvania. Some of these may involve the probate court while others may have other legal frameworks. A fully diversified estate usually contains a combination of tools.

This article discusses three major types of financial planning tools. Within each of these categories, there are specific concerns and advantages. An appraisal of a person’s financial, familial and legal position should determine the best estate plan strategy.

Wills are one of the most familiar types of estate planning documents for most people. This type of estate planning strategy involves a formal declaration of intent with regard to who should receive assets after someone passes. Depending on the amount of money or value involved, wills may have to go through a regulated process in the probate system. During this time, beneficiaries, creditors and other interested parties could all have an opportunity to weigh in on the disposition of the estate.

Trusts are another type of popular estate planning tool. The variety of options within this category could allow for further customization, potentially supplementing or replacing a will. As mentioned on FindLaw, examples of trusts include living trusts, special needs trusts and so forth. It is important to note that trusts may affect probate.

Life insurance policies are another popular element of estate planning. These types of financial products are usually more popular for people earlier on in their careers. They leverage income, such as monthly premium payments made from salary, rather than assets, such as liquidated retirement accounts, to provide financial support for beneficiaries. Some non-sales information is available via the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

Life insurance, trusts and wills are not mutually exclusive, and they are not all strictly necessary. The best estate plan depends on the tax environment, legal context and situation of the person in question. Estates also often require periodic review and restructuring.