Our Pittsburgh Estate Planning Attorneys have compiled a list of questions our Wills and Estates clients typically ask us. Pennsylvania probate and obtaining a Will can sometimes be a daunting process, and we hope to provide you with some information that will help you throughout this process. Hopefully some of your questions regarding Pennsylvania Wills and Estates will be answered here!
I was named the "Agent" in my loved one's Power of Attorney. They have now passed away. Does that make the "Executor" of their estate?
No. An Agent is only appointed and able to act during a person's lifetime. Once that person is deceased, the "Power" no longer exists. Appointing an executor of your estate is an entirely different legal process - which is done via a Will. The Executor will be the person who will administer your estate when you pass away. An "Agent" and an "Executor" are not one in the same.
I was appointed as the Executor of my loved one's estate. Can I take a fee for this?
The answer is yes, you can take a fee. While some Executors may choose to forego taking a fee (because they are Executor of a close family member, for example), most Executors are able to take a fee if there are adequate funds to do so. In an Executor does take a fee for his/her services, the fee can be considered a tax deduction on a PA inheritance tax return.
We are unable to locate the original Will - now what?
Typically, the court must have the original Will for probate, or estate administration purposes. However, if you are unable to find the original, this usually does not mean that the Will itself cannot be probated. The court will then require you to file a petition allowing a copy of the Will to be probated, and it may require that you present affidavits from the named beneficiaries of the Will as well. It is generally a good idea to keep your original Will with your attorney, or if it is in your possession, you will want to keep in a safe or another secure area.
My loved one passed away recently, but I think that there is a mistake in his/her Will and/or that person was improperly influenced into making their Will. What can I do?
If you want to challenge a Will based on a mistake or "undue influence," you must first establish that you have standing to do so. In Pennsylvania, legal standing for contesting a Will exists where you would have benefited from the Will if the mistake or the undue influence did not exist. Procedurally, you can file to contest the Will in Orphans' Court. Typically, after a Will contest is filed, litigation on the issues of the Will's validity will ensue.
Have more questions about Pennsylvania Wills or Powers of Attorney? Contact our Pittsburgh Estate Attorneys today to get your own questions answered, and maybe we will add yours to this list!