Pennsylvania Probate / Estate Administration
INTRODUCTION TO PROBATE
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate, if not left in a funded living trust, often goes through a process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. Probate means to “prove a will.” If your loved one had a Will and you need probate assistance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our firm can assist you. Please note that probate should occur as soon as possible, as there are many time-sensitive procedures that must be completed.
ARE YOU AN EXECUTOR OF AN ESTATE AND NEED ASSISTANCE? CONTACT US FOR A COMPLEMENTARY CONSULTATION TODAY.
HOW DOES PROBATE WORK?
Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:
- Filing of a petition with the proper Pennsylvania Register of Wills (an office of the state Orphans Court).
- Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
- Petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
- Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
- Sale of estate assets.
- Payment of federal estate taxes and Pennsylvania inheritance taxes, if applicable.
- Final distribution of assets to heirs.
For more information, check out our step-by-step probate guide.
A LOVED ONE PASSED AWAY IN MY FAMILY AND I AM THE EXECUTOR. WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?
The best thing you can do now is to find and secure the original will. Next, seek out a qualified estate planning and administration attorney to assist you in the matter. Our firm can assist you in this matter.
FREQUENT PROBATE ISSUES
- A beneficiary objects to the will: In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections. This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will. In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Executor. Our firm can represent you in a will contest.
- Probate vs. Non-Probate Assets: Probate is primarily a process through which title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate, including joint assets, life insurance policies, 401(k)s, IRAs, etc.
- Executor Compensation: Executors are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate.
- Whether a Lawyer is Needed: It is advised that the Executor retain an attorney and an accountant to advise and assist with his or her duties. Our firm charges for these services based on a small percentage of the total estate value.
- Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax: Pennsylvania has an inheritance tax. Currently, property passed to a spouse is taxed at 0%, property passed to children are taxed at 4.5%, property passed to siblings taxed at 12% and property passed to all others taxed at 15%. If you pay taxes within three months of the decedent's death, you can get a 5% discount on the inheritance tax. There are also several exemptions that can reduce your inheritance tax.
- Time it takes for probate: The duration of probate can vary substantially depending on a number of factors such as the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property owned by the estate. For instance, if you have several properties in different locations other than Pennsylvania, you must probate those assets in the state where the property is located. Will contests or disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can also add significant cost and delay. Most estates are settled though probate in about 9 to 18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.
If we can be of assistance in your probate or estate administration matter, please Contact Us today for a no-obligation complementary consultation.
The Law Offices of Jeremy A. Wechsler assist clients with Estate Planning matters in Willow Grove, PA as well as Abington, Hatboro, Dresher, Horsham, Bryn Athyn, Huntingdon Valley, Fort Washington, Jenkintown, Glenside, Oreland, Warminister, Wyncote, Ambler, Elkins Park, Flourtown, Philadelphia, Warrington, Cheltenham, Gwynedd Valley, Jamison, Feasterville Trevose, Richboro, North Wales, Blue Bell, Lafayette Hill, King of Prussia, Collegeville, Oaks, Phoenixville, Oxford Valley, Langhorne, Penndel, Bristol, Fairless Hills, Bensalem, Plymouth Meeting, Furlong, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Montgomery County.