Probate Attorneys in Trevose, Pennsylvania
Probate is the legal process of settling a person’s estate after they pass. Probate takes place whether or not the person leaves a last will and testament. If there is a will, at the end of the probate process, beneficiaries named in the document will receive their inheritance. If there is no will, which is called dying intestate, the assets will be distributed according to Pennsylvania’s laws of intestate succession.
Whether you're navigating probate or want to plan for your future with a will or other legal document, contact us today at the Benoff Law Firm. We are located in Trevose, Pennsylvania, and serve clients throughout the Commonwealth. Reach out if you are in Philadelphia, Southampton, Bucks County, or Montgomery County, as well as Trevose. We provide personalized services to those who need it most.
What Is Probate?
As mentioned in the opening, probate is a mandatory legal process to settle the estate of someone who passes away, known as the decedent. Whether there is a will or not, the process will take place following standard probate procedures.
An executor will be appointed to oversee the process. If there is a will and the decedent named a personal representative in that document, that person will be the executor. If not, one will be appointed, usually from among the family of the decedent.
What Comprises the Estate?
A decedent’s estate is any property, cash, or investment held in the decedent’s name alone. Assets jointly held are transferred outside of probate. For instance, any real property held as joint tenants with the right of survivorship or as tenancy by the entirely will transfer to the surviving tenant/owner outside of probate.
Life insurance policies and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries are excluded. Transferring outside of the process include bank accounts with payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) clauses. Anything held in a trust will also transfer outside of probate. The trustee of the trust will distribute assets according to the wishes expressed in the document.
Probate in Pennsylvania
Probate -- known as the opening of the estate -- is done at the Office of the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death. If the decedent left a will, the designated personal representative must present the will and the decedent’s death certificate to the Probate Clerk in the Office of the Register of Wills. That person will then be named executor.
If there is no will, a family member or loved one can present the death certificate so an administrator, or executor, of the estate can be named, and the process can begin.
It is vital to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you through the entire process while keeping your families best interests in mind.
The Probate Process
Once the executor has been appointed, probate can begin. The first step in the process is to notify everyone that probate is beginning for the decedent. This includes creditors, who will have a claim on the estate if there are outstanding obligations. Creditors have one year to submit claims, so this can definitely slow the process.
The executor must collect all assets and protect them. A bank account should be opened in the estate’s name so cash assets can be accumulate under one account. If the decedent was receiving government retirement from the VA or Social Security, those agencies must be notified. Often, the last payment will have to be returned.
As creditor claims come in, it may be necessary to sell off some assets to raise funds to cover outstanding obligations. This may require the hiring of appraisers, brokers, or even auctioneers. The executor is responsible for filing and paying any state or federal taxes due. All of this must be accounted for and relayed to beneficiaries, so they know what is going on.
Unless the estate is valued at more than $12.92 million, there will be no federal estate tax. The exemption is doubled when the estate previously transferred to a spouse, who later passed away.
Once all creditors and other obligations, including taxes, have been taken care of, then the executor can distribute assets to beneficiaries. If there is a will, the executor must honor the wishes expressed in that document. If there is no will, then Pennsylvania’s law of intestate succession determines the beneficiaries, starting with the surviving spouse and children.
The Executor’s Challenges
There are many reporting requirements required during probate. In addition, challenges may arise from beneficiaries who may question the validity of the will. Determining intestate succession can also be complicated. If you need help with any issue or requirement arising in probate proceedings, contact us immediately.
Probate Attorneys Serving Trevose, Pennsylvania
If you’re going through the probate process in or around Trevose, Pennsylvania – or in Northeast Philadelphia, Southhampton, Philadelphia, Bucks County, or Montgomery County -- and you have questions or issues to be dealt with, contact us at the Benoff Law Firm. Reach out immediately, and let’s work together to get everything back on track.