Any time money or assets are passed down through a will or Pennsylvania’s intestacy statute, they must go through a process called “probate.” Probate is a court process to ensure that the will’s terms are carried out and that the entire estate is properly counted and passed on to the deceased’s heirs. In many cases, probate can take a long time because it includes opportunities for other heirs or potential heirs under the will to challenge the will’s validity or the validity of certain bequests. For help with your probate case, contact the Pennsylvania probate attorneys at Herr Potts & Potts today.
How Long Does It Take to Administer an Estate in Pennsylvania?
The process of administering a will or distributing the estate under the intestacy statute has clear steps that need to be accomplished. First, the executor needs to be found and empowered to administer the estate. This person is appointed in the will or established in court to administer the decedent’s estate by contacting the heirs, collecting the property, managing accounts, and putting it all together.
Next, the executor must actually account for all of the deceased’s property, the “estate.” This includes investments, accounts, physical property, cash, and other property the decedent owned when they passed away. This property should be counted and assembled so that it can be distributed. This can take time to research all of the decedent’s holdings, especially if there is no list of assets included with the will.
The decedent’s estate is then used to pay all outstanding costs. This could include debts, taxes, funeral expenses, and other fees and costs for administering the will. The executor is often entitled to a fee for their role as executor and may also be paid from the estate. Whatever is left over needs to be distributed to the heirs.
The court allows a period of time for people to file will challenges. This gives other family members the time to come forward and make claims against the will’s validity, whole or in part. After the period has ended and the final heirs have been decided, the property is passed on.
The time it takes to assemble the entirety of the property that the deceased owned depends on what they owned. Many people who spend the last years of their lives in nursing homes or preparing their estate have their affairs in order before they pass away, making this process smoother. Those who pass suddenly may have things scattered in various accounts, and assembling it all can take some time.
If the will drafter included confusing language or complicated bequests, it may take some time to resolve all challenges. After that, it may take additional time to get the property properly disbursed to the intended heirs, especially if they are far away geographically or difficult to contact.
Once the entire process is completed and the entire estate has been passed on, probate ends. This process could take months to complete.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Non-Probate Assets?
One of the most important estate planning tools to consider is the use of non-probate assets. Many things like jointly-owned real estate, joint accounts, and life insurance can pass to the decedent’s heirs immediately, without needing to pass through probate. This means the heirs can receive these funds nearly immediately and begin using them much more quickly. However, there may be reasons why you would not want non-probate assets to go directly to a beneficiary. One reason would be that you would want those assets to go into trust for the beneficiary or there may be inheritance tax reasons where it would be better if the asset went into your estate.
It is important to plan how non-probate assets will be used when you pass. In many cases instructions are left for trusts to continue to operate or for insurance policies to be disbursed to family members so that they can get continued financial support after the death of a loved one.
Challenging Wills During Probate
Many issues surrounding probate deal with improperly executed wills or wills that seem to cut against the deceased’s wishes. In some cases, wills are poorly written or impossible to decipher, and courts may need to step in to resolve the issues.
If you are facing a challenge to your loved one’s will or you were wrongly cut-out of someone’s will, you may need an attorney to fight your case in court. Having a will declared invalid may ensure that you receive an inheritance under the intestacy statute or an older version of the deceased’s will. Talk to an attorney today about how this might apply in your case.
Contact Our Pennsylvania Will and Estate Attorneys Today
If you have lost a loved one and need to take their will through probate to ensure that you or other heirs receive their share of their estate, talk to our attorneys today. Herr Potts & Potts’ Delaware County estate planning attorneys represent executors and heirs in probate to help them administer the will and receive the inheritance they are entitled to. To discuss your case, contact our law offices today at (610) 254-0114.