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What should you know about the probate process?

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2021 | Estate Planning & Administration |

In Pennsylvania, you might want to know how a loved one’s estate is handled after they pass away. Unfortunately, if they lacked a will and didn’t properly plan their estate, the estate will go through probate. You should know what happens during the probate process.

What is probate?

If a person doesn’t have a plan set in place for their estate, the probate process occurs. This involves the will being authenticated and an estate administrator is named to handle the affairs related to the estate. The probate court oversees the process, and the administrator is required to make sure that the beneficiaries and heirs receive what they are due according to the person’s will. They also make sure the deceased’s creditors are paid back. The probate process can be long, tedious, and complex depending on the estate.

What is estate administration?

Estate administration occurs when a person represents a deceased person’s estate and handles their affairs. This individual is named the personal representative or executor of the will and is appointed by a judge if the estate goes into probate. If the deceased did not have a will, things can be more complicated.

How does the probate process work?

Probate involves several steps during estate administration. You may need to do the following:

• File as executor: If a person wishes to be named executor, they should file a petition with the probate court where the deceased lived. The court will appoint someone as an estate administrator, but this is normally the individual’s spouse, child, or parent.
• Notify appropriate parties: Beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors should be notified of the process by mail. They can also be notified through an obituary in a local newspaper.
• Collect assets: You should inventory everything owned by the deceased and file that document with the court. You will want to start paying bills from a single bank account as well. You can have one created through an attorney.
• Pay bills: Pay the estate’s bills. Make note of all bills that need to be handled. Some are ongoing like utilities while others are final like taxes.
• File tax returns: A final tax return should be filed for the deceased for the final year of their life. While many estates don’t have to file federal estate tax, it might be necessary. You will have to find out if it applies.
• Distribute property to parties: Assets and properties are then distributed to the right parties.
• File a final account: A final account should be filed with the probate court including all payments, tax payments and filings, and distribution of assets and property. This is the last step.

The probate process can be complex. If you are named estate administrator, it’s important you know what’s expected of you so that you can fulfill your loved one’s wishes.