Probating a will in Pennsylvania is a complex affair. The personal representative for an estate is responsible for handling the affairs of a decedent. Before a will can be probated, there are several steps that a personal representative must take. Those steps include dealing with the contest of a decedent’s will. If you or a family member needs assistance with probating a will, you should consult with an experienced Pennsylvania probate lawyer. The diligent attorneys at Herr Potts & Potts understand the desire for wanting to pass your estate on to your family. Our Pennsylvania estate planning lawyers are here to help you handle any estate administration issues you may have. Herr Potts & Potts are here to explain whether there is a time limit on probate of wills in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Probate Process
The Pennsylvania probate process begins with the submission of the will for probate. A will is a legal document created by a person to distribute real and personal property to the named beneficiaries in the document. The creator of the will, or testator, may appoint an individual to act as their personal representative. If a personal representative is not named by a testator, then the court or a court clerk will appoint one. The personal representative is the one who submits the testator’s will for probate.
Pennsylvania probate law states that a will may be submitted for probate at any time. However, there are certain steps a personal representative must take to ensure the will is probated properly. First, the representative should find the decedent’s will and any amendments (codicils) to the will if they do not have it already. The representative should know that any alterations to the will not made by the testator will make the will invalid. Additionally, submitting the wrong documents for probate is also a serious error.
Once the will and any codicils are gathered, they should be submitted to the Register of Wills to initiate the probate process officially. The representative should then gather all of the decedent’s assets to determine which assets need to be submitted for probate. The following assets are not subject to the probate process:
- Assets placed in a trust for a beneficiary
- Any jointly held assets
- Life insurance policies
The personal representative should also gather the decedent’s income tax returns for recent years. These will later be used to file any final tax returns necessary to complete the probate process. The personal representative should also be careful to avoid making distributions before they have completed the probate process. The representative becomes personally responsible for distributions that are made early.
Will Contests in Pennsylvania
One of the most important tasks that a personal representative should complete is notifying beneficiaries and creditors of the decedent’s death. Pennsylvania law requires that every beneficiary in the will is notified that the will was submitted for probate. Any person who has been disinherited in the decedent’s will also has a right to receive notice. Beneficiaries of a will also have the right to contest a will. Therefore, Pennsylvania law requires that any person that has the right to contest the will is notified.
Additionally, a personal representative must advertise the decedent’s estate. Pennsylvania law states that a decedent’s estate must be advertised in a newspaper in general circulation and in a legal newspaper located in the county where the decedent died. The reason for this law is to ensure that any creditors of the decedent are aware of the decedent’s death. This allows creditors to make a claim for any debts they are owed. Advertising the decedent’s estate allows creditor claims to be cut off after one year.
If a personal representative did not advertise the estate, there could be a four to six-year statute of limitations for a creditor to file their case. The statute of limitations dictates the amount of time a person has to file a certain case. It does not apply to the amount of time a case takes to adjudicate. If you miss the statute of limitations filing deadline, the court may bar the claim you wish to file.
Southeast Pennsylvania Probate Attorneys Can Help You File a Will
If you or a family member are concerned about the probate process, you should contact our experienced West Chester estate planning attorneys today. At Herr Herr & Potts, our attorneys understand the workings of Pennsylvania probate law and are prepared to help you. Our legal team has over 80 years of experience in handling various types of elder law cases. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our diligent attorneys, call us at (610) 254-0114 or reach us online.