When dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, the difficult task of settling the decedent’s estate can seem daunting. The last thing a family wants to think about after suffering a death in the family is how to divide up their family member’s property. We can assist personal representatives with having property appraised, selling tangible items and real estate, and ensuring that the last wishes of your a loved one are carried out. Let our qualified and experienced attorneys guide you through the estate administration and probate process.
What is Estate Administration?
The administration of an estate begins once an individual has passed away, this person is known as the decedent. Generally, formal estate administration is required whenever a person dies having personal property or real estate. In Pennsylvania, if a decedent dies without a will their estate becomes subjected to intestacy law. Intestacy law is when a state essentially creates a will for a decedent who died without a valid will. Intestate succession in Pennsylvania is designed to provide for the surviving spouse and children of the decedent.
If a decedent dies without a will, a petition must be filed with Register of Wills and it must include a statement that the decedent died without a will. The Register of Wills is an elected official, he or she can approve a document as the last will of the decedent and appoint a personal representative who is authorized to administer the estate of the decedent. The personal representative is usually the surviving spouse or children of the decedent
A personal representative must obtain the necessary legal documents to allow him to act for the estate. These documents called letters testamentary or letters of administration are obtained through the Register of Wills in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of death. The personal representative is responsible for a number of duties, such as:
- Locating the will and having it probated. Probate is the legal process used to establish the validity of a will.
- Finding and notifying the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries.
- Locating and protecting the assets of decedent’s estate
- Paying all debts, expenses, and taxes of the estate from the assets of decedent’s estate
- Complying with the state and federal regulations
- Distributing property to the heirs or beneficiaries after all necessary procedures have been completed
If the decedent dies with a valid will, it is filed for probate with the Register of Wills in the county the decedent resided. The directions of the will are then followed to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.
What Steps are Necessary to Administer an Estate in Pennsylvania?
After a person has passed away, there are certain actions which must be carried out to handle their estate. First, all assets of the decedent’s estate, including personal property and real estate, are inventoried and often are physically gathered. Next, all of the beneficiaries or heirs are located. Beneficiaries imply there was a will and heirs imply the decedent died intestate. The beneficiaries or heirs are then informed of their interest in the decedent’s estate.
After beneficiaries or heirs are notified, debts are then paid. These consist of funeral expenses, private debts, and state and federal taxes. Necessary tax returns are also filed. Fees are also paid to the administrator of the estate and the attorney if one was retained. These fees are typically based on a percentage of the gross value of the decedent’s estate.
Administration of the estate may also include brief management of a business or the sale of stock in a corporation. When the administration of an estate is ready to conclude, a final accounting of all assets is presented to the county court for final approval. After the court’s approval, distribution of the balance of assets is complete.
Generally, the administration of an estate takes about a year to conclude. If the decedent possessed a large or complex estate, it may take considerably longer to administer.
Our Estate Administration and Probate Attorneys Can Help
If you have a loved one who recently passed away, dealing with the administration of their estate may be the last thing on your mind. The lawyers at Herr Potts and Potts are here to make this a less stressful time for you and your family. We have served the residents of southeastern Pennsylvania for over 80 years and would be proud to serve you. To schedule your confidential consultation call us at (610) 254-0114.
Recent Representation Matters:
- Represented Executor where the entire estate was payable to charities.
- Handled an insolvent estate (one that the debts are more than the assets) by representing Executor from the beginning until getting an approved Account by the Court and closing the estate.
- Ensured that the estate’s advertising was done correctly so that a creditor was unable to collect because they were too late notifying the estate.
- Filed 1041 income tax returns for the Estate and sent out K-1s to the beneficiaries.
- Made sure an estate filed an inheritance tax prepayment so that it received a 5% discount.
- Filed a Caveat with the Register of Wills to argue that the Will in possession should be the Will that should stand for the decedent.