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After a person passes away, it becomes necessary for his or her estate to be administered. This process is known as “probate.”
In some other states, probate is often an expensive, time-consuming process that requires court involvement and significant fees imposed by the state. Fortunately, probate fees in Pennsylvania are much lower than in many states. Also, the vast majority of Pennsylvania estates do not require any court appearances.
After someone dies, legal documents can be prepared for his/her will to be quickly filed for probate in the Register of Wills Office if the executor wishes to do so. If there is no will, an administrator is appointed. In either case, the Register promptly issues documents that enable the executor or administrator to have the legal right of access to the decedent’s bank accounts, investments and other assets.
The executor/administrator proceeds to gather information about the assets of the decedent and pay any bills that are due. A Pennsylvania inheritance tax return must be filed within nine months after the date of death. Partial distributions to the heirs can be made during the administration process, for example, while a house is on the market to be sold.
Assuming that all creditors have been paid, the heirs are entitled to receive their shares of the estate. An heir who receives a share of the “residue” of an estate is entitled to receive an Accounting from the executor or administrator, setting forth information about the estate’s assets, income, and expenses. Most estates are concluded with a Family Agreement, whereby the residuary heirs accept the Accounting.
When we serve as the attorneys for an estate, we scrupulously follow all legal requirements to make certain that the decedent’s wishes are carried out, and that the executor or administrator fulfills his or her fiduciary duties of administering the estate according to the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We provide legal assistance in a thorough yet sensitive manner to family members in a difficult time.