When a person dies, their Estate often has to go through probate. This blog deals with exactly how probate works here in Pennsylvania and how the seasoned Butler County probate attorneys from Heritage Elder Law can walk you through the process.
What is Probate?
Probate refers to the legal process in which a person’s will, once they pass away, is submitted to the Register of Wills/Orphans’ Court so that the heirs can legally obtain their inheritance according to the terms of the will.
How Does the Probate Process Work?
The first step in the Probate, Estate, or Trust Administration process permits the prospective client to consult with the attorney for a free initial consultation where the entire process of administering the Estate will be reviewed. In the first meeting, the different types of assets your loved one owned as what is in the estate influences how the Estate is administered and what forms may need to be filed with the court will be discussed.
The person named in the will generally need to be appointed Executor if there is a will. If there is no will, then an administrator of the Estate will need to be appointed. In either scenario, it requires going to the courthouse and appearing before the Register of Wills to be sworn in. Doing so legally authorizes the Executor or administrator to exert control over the assets and dispose of them according to the terms of the will or in accordance with the laws of intestacy (where a loved one dies without a will).
How Long Will the Entire Probate Process Last?
In most cases, completing the process takes a year and a half from your loved one’s death date. It may take more time, relying on the complexity of the Estate or, frankly, family dynamics. During that time, the assets are identified and reported on the inheritance tax return, which will be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The Estate is also advertised in the local paper to permit any creditors of the Estate to claim to ensure any outstanding bills the decedent owed are paid. After the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reviews and accepts the inheritance tax return (usually six to nine months after it is filed), our attorneys will work with the Executor or administrator to close out the Estate and ensure the heirs receive their inheritance.
Are All Wills Available to the Public?
Recognize that unless prohibited by a court order to the contrary, all wills (once submitted) are a means of public record and can be viewed accordingly.
Why is a Will Registered or Probated?
This is required because the person named as Executor/Executrix of the will can be legally selected as the estate representative. This step ensures that a person can help administer the Estate and, for instance, talk to insurance companies, financial institutions, or creditors on behalf of the Estate.
What Does “Intestate” Mean?
Intestate indicates that the deceased person had no valid will at the time of death.
What is the Purpose of a Short Certificate?
A short certificate is a legal document created by the Register of Wills which shows an estate has been opened, the name of the Estate’s legal representative, and other pertinent information regarding the Estate, as well as the Seal of the Register of Wills. This document can be used as proof of the Executor’s authority to act on behalf of the Estate.
When Can a Will be Registered and Filed?
Usually, the will is filed along with the Petition for Letters Testamentary or Administration when one takes the will to the Register of Wills to have the person named in the Will as Executor sworn in as the Estate’s legal representative.
Should I Keep the Original Will?
The Register of Wills is required by law to keep the original will when the Estate is opened.
What are Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration?
Letters Testamentary is a legal document created by the Register of Wills which gives legal authority to the Executor to act on behalf of the Estate once a will has been submitted and the Executor is sworn in. Letters of Administration provide you with the same type of authority as an estate representative, termed an Administrator. However, they are used when there is no will.
What is Required to Open an Estate?
Usually, an individual has to have the decedent’s death certificate, original will, and Petition for Letters Testamentary (if there is a will) or Petition for Letters of Administration (if there is no will). Each county has specific fees that need to be paid in conjunction with opening up an estate. There is also the requirement that an estate is advertised in the newspaper and the county legal journal (if there is one).
How Does an Inheritance Tax Return Work?
The Inheritance Tax Return, also referred to as the REV-1500, is a form mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to be submitted to find out the applicable tax owed on the decedent’s Estate. Usually, due within nine months from the decedent’s date of death, it displays the department a snapshot of all the assets and their values owned by the decedent at the time of death; it also identifies the estate heirs. The applicable inheritance tax rate depends upon how an heir is related to the decedent. For example, if a spouse inherits, there is a 0% tax rate; a lineal descendant (son or daughter) has a 4.5% tax rate; a sibling has a 12% tax rate; everybody else has a 15% tax rate.
Contact A Butler County Probate Attorney
In the event that you have been appointed the administrator of a loved one’s Estate, you must have solid legal guidance on your side. Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, LLC can help walk you through each step of the probate process so you can feel confident knowing your loved one’s wishes are met and you are also meeting the state’s requirements. Contact Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, LLC today to have competent legal representation on your side.