What is the Process of Probate and How Can I Avoid It?
If you’re administering a loved one’s estate through probate in Pennsylvania, you need to be prepared for the long, expensive process. Here’s a few tips to smoothly administer the estate and to get closure for your family.
Frequently Asked Questions About Probate
Question: What is probate administration?
Probate administration is necessary when someone passes away owning assets and didn’t transfer the assets into a revocable living trust during their lifetime. The Register of Wills in the county where the decedent died will determine how to distribute the assets of the decedent.
Question: What assets don’t have to go through probate?
The most common assets that aren’t probated are:
- Properties held in joint tenancy
- Assets that have designated pay-on-death beneficiaries, such as bank accounts and retirement accounts
- Assets the decedent placed in a living trust during life
Question: How do I start the probate process?
You will first need to be named as the executor of the will that’s filed with the Register of Wills, or if there’s no will, be appointed the personal representative of the estate.
Question: What happens after I’m appointed the executor or personal representative?
You will need to file a petition for probate to open a probate case. If you live in Montgomery County, you can find probate forms at the Montgomery County Register of Wills.
After your petition is granted, the court will issue a “letters testamentary.” You must then give notice to all beneficiaries, heirs and creditors. Next, you will gather and create an inventory of all the assets and debts of the decedent, and pay all debts, liabilities, and estate taxes with the decedent’s remaining assets.
There are many additional steps you must take to administer the estate, including selling estate property to pay for debts and potentially litigating against heirs or beneficiaries who contends the administration.
Question: Does Pennsylvania have an inheritance tax?
Question: Is there a shortened process if someone didn’t own a lot?
Yes, there’s a simplified probate process for small estates that are $50,000 or less.
Question: Should I hire a lawyer to help administer the estate?
Yes. Probate court is a complex, time-consuming process. A mistake could cost the estate and its beneficiaries time and money.
Question: How can I avoid probate for myself?
You should consult with experienced Pennsylvania estate planning attorney Joe Frabizzio to determine the best and most cost effective strategy to avoid probate. Proper estate planning could help your family save tens of thousands of dollars in estate taxes and probate costs. One strategy to avoid probate is by setting up a revocable living trust.
Call us for a free consultation to learn more: (610) 667-2988.
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