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How Long is the Probate Process in Pennsylvania?

ProbateIf you’ve never had anyone close to you die, there’s a good chance that your only exposure to the legal process that follows a death comes from the movies or television. You may have seen dramatic scenes in which family members sit for the reading of a person’s will, or scheme to have the terms of a will changed.

In real life, there is an extensive legal process designed to make sure that after a death, the deceased person’s estate is properly distributed to the right people, as well as that their debts are paid off. This process is known as probate, and in the State of Pennsylvania, it involves numerous steps, as outlined below.

  • The first step is always locating the person’s most recent will, as well as any additions that may have been made and any previous copies. Once the will has been found, it is a good idea to involve an estate planning attorney with experience in the probate process to make sure that there is a legal inventory taken of the estate’s assets and that the Register of Wills is officially notified of the death.
  • The probate attorney will need several items in addition to the will. They will need previous income tax returns, bank account statements, information about retirement accounts, pension accounts and other assets, as well as any bills or loans that the person owed money on. They will also need a list of all valuables and property, as well as expenses related to the person’s death and burial. The attorney will determine the size of the estate to be probated and which assets need to go through probate and which are automatically distributed because they are jointly held, in trust or have a beneficiary form. They will also advise on inheritance and federal tax that is likely to be due.
  • Following this, the person named as executor in the will goes to the Register of Wills office in the county where the will originated. The executor presents both the will and the death certificate and pays a probate fee. Following this the estate is advertised in two local newspapers to give creditors the opportunity to file claims on the estate. Notices are also sent to beneficiaries. There is a five percent discount on the amount of inheritance tax to be paid to the state if an estimated payment is made within three months. By nine months after the death, both inheritance and federal estate taxes are due, and bills are paid, and the assets are either divided or liquidated.

If you need competent legal assistance in probating a will, contact our offices today to schedule an appointment.