Probate Attorneys Serving Western Pennsylvania
There is nothing more upsetting than losing a loved one. We understand this here at Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, which is why we have dedicated our lives as attorneys to helping those who are going through the probate process. If your loved one recently passed away with a will and you are chosen as the executor of his or her estate, or even if you are someone who is looking to choose the executor of your estate and you would like to learn more about the estate administration process, you have come to the right place. Contact Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, LLC today to learn how we can assist you.
What does probate mean?
Probate is the legal process by which a person’s will, upon their death, is submitted to the Register of Wills/Orphans’ Court so that the heirs can legally obtain their inheritance under the terms of the will.
Understanding the Probate Process
The first step in the Probate, Estate, or Trust Administration process allows the prospective client to meet with the attorney for a free initial consultation where we will review the process of administering the estate. In that first meeting, we will also discuss what 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.
Generally speaking, if there is a will, the person named in the will needs to be appointed executor. If there is no will, then an administrator of the estate will need to be appointed. In either case, it requires going to the courthouse and appearing before the Register of Wills to be sworn in. Doing so legally empowers 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 does the probate process take?
On average, it takes a year and a half from the date of your loved one’s death to complete the process. It may take more time, depending upon 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 allow for any creditors of the estate to make a claim to ensure any outstanding bills the decedent owed are paid. Once the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reviews and accepts the inheritance tax return (typically 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 open to the public?
Unless prohibited by a court order to the contrary, all wills (once submitted) are a matter of public record and can be viewed.
Why is a will registered or probated?
This is necessary so the person named as Executor/Executrix of the will can be legally appointed as the estate representative. This step ensures that a person is empowered to help administer the estate and, for example, talk to insurance companies, financial institutions, or creditors on behalf of the estate.
What does “intestate” mean?
Intestate means the deceased person had no valid will at the time of their death.
What is a short certificate?
A short certificate is a legal document issued by the Register of Wills which evidences 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 does a will get registered and filed?
Generally speaking, 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.
Why do you 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 issued 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 give the same type of authority to an estate representative, termed an Administrator, yet are used when there is no will.
What is needed to open an estate?
Typically, one 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 certain fees that need to be paid in conjunction with opening up an estate and there is also the requirement that an estate is advertised in the newspaper, as well as the county legal journal (if one exists).
What is an Inheritance Tax Return?
The Inheritance Tax Return, also known as the REV-1500, is a form required by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to be submitted to find out the applicable tax owed on the decedent’s estate. Generally due within nine months from the decedent’s date of death, it shows 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
If you have been appointed the administrator of a loved one’s estate, it is important that you have strong 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 requirements of the state. Contact Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, LLC today to learn how we can assist you.