The probate process occurs when the courts need to oversee the administration of someone’s estate. The requirements for probate are somewhat different in Pennsylvania when compared with much of the rest of the country.
In many states, probate oversight is necessary when the total value of someone’s property when they die reaches a certain point, when they die without estate planning paperwork or when they possess real property in their name only. In Pennsylvania, probate oversight is necessary anytime someone has an asset solely in their name, meaning they do not own it jointly with another individual, and they do not have a beneficiary named to receive that property in formal estate planning documents. The process generally involves the following, at a bare minimum.
Submitting records to the courts
Providing the estate planning paperwork, such as a will, to the courts will be an important starting point. The person serving as the executor or personal representative of the estate will usually also need to review someone’s financial records and provide the courts with an inventory of assets and financial obligations. The contents of someone’s estate and estate plan will determine what happens next. In some scenarios, the courts will decide how to distribute assets among specific individuals, such as the immediate family members of the deceased party. Other times, they will simply ensure that the executor properly fulfills their obligations, such as filing taxes and sending notice to creditors.
Distributing assets and fulfilling responsibilities
The personal representative of an estate will need to secure and manage someone’s assets after their death. They may need to manage their sale and distribute the proceeds to beneficiaries or creditors. They may also need to arrange for the physical transfer of personal property. The estate process can take many months to complete. In some cases, it may take well over a year to go from filing the initial paperwork with the courts to distributing the last remaining assets. Even estates that have named beneficiaries for all assets will require probate court involvement because someone contests the validity of the estate plan or the actions of the personal representative.
Knowing what to expect during the probate process can be beneficial both for those tasked with estate administration and those hoping to inherit from a Pennsylvania estate.