What is Probate and How Does it Work in Pennsylvania?


Are you confused about what probate is, or what it entails?

Probate is a process that occurs upon your passing, but it is different in every state.

The person in charge of your estate, your executor, is responsible for formally proving your will is valid before a court or administrative office. In Pennsylvania, this is relatively easy. Usually, a court is not involved. Instead, your executor goes to the “Register of Wills” office in your respective county of residence, hands the administrator the original will, and the executor, after an oath and proof of identity, is named formally as executor.

The executor then is responsible for:

  • Communicating with beneficiaries, creditors, debtors, etc. of the estate.
  • Caring for estate property, and consolidating appropriate assets, selling appropriate property, etc.
  • Filing inheritance tax returns and a final income tax return.
  • Paying creditors from the estate assets, as well as distributing the inheritance to appropriate beneficiaries.

Probate cases vary, and there may be additional tasks for the executor depending on the situation. An executor is usually assisted by an estate planning attorney in these tasks as needed.

Although probate sounds burdensome for your executor, Pennsylvania makes probate relatively simple when compared to other states. In Pennsylvania, your executor typically never enters a courtroom. Once he or she is named executor, there is little or no supervision from that point forward (unless, of course, there are conflicts between the executor and beneficiaries). Other states require a court supervised process, which is more time consuming, costly and burdensome.

Many of our clients have notions that they must avoid probate at all costs. There are strategies to avoid probate, but usually, if you only own property in Pennsylvania, it is not advantageous to avoid probate. In Pennsylvania, the costs and administrative duties of probate is on par with the administrative duties of being a trustee.

When crafting your estate plan (your will, trust, etc.), a qualified estate planning attorney will discuss all of your options with you based on the facts and circumstances.

If you want to know if your plan works for you, whether you should avoid probate, etc., please schedule a complementary consultation with us.



Let our firm assist you: Our firm offers a complimentary estate plan review and consultation. Please call us today at (215) 706-0200 or email us.

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