The Pennsylvania Probate process is the process by which the assets of the deceased are distributed either under a Will, or through Pennsylvania Intestacy laws when the deceased does not have a Will. Probate is the stage in the process where the entire estate of the deceased is administered, or a determination is made as to what parties will receive certain assets or property upon that person's death. After the death of the deceased, the probate process should begin as soon as possible, as much of this process is very time-sensitive.
What steps must be taken for PA Probate?
The probate process begins by filing a petition with the proper Pennsylvania Register of Wills, which is part of the Pennsylvania State Orphans Court in each respective county. After filing the petition for probate, notice must be given to the deceased's heirs under his/her Will, or to the statutory heirs of the deceased (if no Will) that the probate process is beginning. Next, a petition must be filed to either appoint an Executor of the Will, or an Administrator of the estate if there is no Will in place. After the Executor/Administrator is appointed, this individual must compile an Inventory and Appraisal of the deceased's estate, including all of the assets in the estate for probate purposes. Next is the sale of estate assets, followed by payment of Federal estate taxes and Pennsylvania inheritance taxes on behalf of the estate. On the decedent's final Federal income tax return, any tax credits that applied to the decedent before death can be claimed at this time. The last step in the probate process is the final distribution of all of the decedent's assets to his/her heirs.
Common Issues in Pennsylvania Probate
If you are appointed as the Executor of a Will, one of the issues you may face involve probate costs. This can be an expensive process for the Executor. However, the Executor is reimbursed for his/her legitimate out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred during the estate administration process.
A beneficiary under a Pennsylvania Will may also attempt to contest a Will, which is typically done during the probate process. In order to contest a Will, the beneficiary must have legal standing, meaning that they have something at stake under the Will or during the probate process. Aside from contesting the contents of a Will or the administration of assets, a Will contest in Pennsylvania can also involve parties feuding over the person who is designated to be the Executor of the estate.
The probate process in Allegheny County can also be markedly different depending on whether or not there is a valid Will in place. If all assets were provided for in a Will and the Executor was appointed within the Will document, the probate process looks to the Will for direction. If however, a valid Will is not in place at the decedent's death, the probate process can often be more complicated. In this case, the estate passes through Intestacy laws, and property is given to those individuals who are entitled to it under the Pennsylvania Intestacy statute, and not based on the decedent's personal wishes. As opposed to an Executor, who is the person specifically chosen by the Testator of a Will to distribute his/her estate, an Administrator must be appointed to probate the estate when there is no valid Will.
How long does the Probate process take in Pennsylvania?
The length of the probate process varies depending on the value of the estate and the number/complexity of the assets, and heavily depends on whether there was a valid Will in place at the decedent's death. Another factor that may affect the length of the probate process in Pennsylvania is where the property is located. If the property is out of state, the probate process becomes more complicated, as property not located in Pennsylvania must be probated in the state where that property is located. If a Will is being contested or there are disputes with creditors claiming under the estate, then the probate process will be significantly longer.
Contact our Western Pennsylvania Probate Attorneys
Contact our office today to speak with one of our experienced Pennsylvania probate and estate planning attorneys regarding probate in Western Pennsylvania. You deserve an experienced Pennsylvania Wills & Estate Attorney to plan for your future and for your family's future.
Email us, call at 412-281-9906 or toll free at 1-855-VARI-LAW (1-855-827-4529) to schedule an in-person or telephone consultation to discuss your options for Pennsylvania Probate. Speak with one of our secretaries to discuss options for your consultation location.