Probate is the legal process to re-title assets after someone passes away. It is a straight-forward process in Pennsylvania which, except for contested or litigated estates, does not require court involvement. The average time needed to settle a probate estate varies but typically ranges from three to nine months.
The probate process is meant to help collect and inventory the assets of the estate, resolve creditor claims, make sure the wishes of the deceased are honored, and ultimately provide an orderly process for the distribution of assets either per the wishes of the deceased (if there was a will) or by statute (if there is no will). When there is no will, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a set of laws to distribute assets. These laws, known as intestate laws, provide for the transfer of assets to the next of kin, but do not necessarily distribute assets as the deceased would have intended, which is why it is recommended that every person have a will.
Executors play an important role in the probate process. The firm works directly with the Executor in the administration of the estate. The named executor must sign all of the probate court proceedings. There are duties and liabilities associated with being an executor. If you are named as an executor, you should be sure to discuss that liability with your attorney and understand it fully before proceeding.
The executor should be aware that the probate process is NOT a tax process. At death, assets transferred directly to heirs could still be subject to an estate tax at the federal and state level. When an estate or inheritance tax is payable, it becomes due within nine months of the date of death. The amounts subject to these taxes do change periodically, so you should consult an attorney for the most current information.
Whenever we are asked by survivors to help settle the affairs of a loved one, we work hard to do it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. If we can assist you with a new probate or an ongoing probate matter, please contact our offices in Manheim at (717) 665-2207.