INTRODUCTION TO PROBATE
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate, if not left in a funded living trust, goes through a process called probate to manage and distribute the assets of someone who passed away. Probate means to “prove a will.” If your loved one had a Last Will & Testament in Pennsylvania and you need probate assistance in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area, 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, such as paying inheritance taxes, giving notice to creditors, and other important deadlines.
ARE YOU AN EXECUTOR OF AN ESTATE THAT NEEDS IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE? CONTACT US FOR YOUR 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 (i.e., Montgomery County Register of Wills).
- 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 Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes and Federal Estate Taxes.
- 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 Last Will & Testament. Next, hire a qualified estate 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.
- 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.