The probate process is a long and complicated one that helps ensure the proper distribution of a deceased person’s assets. The probate process has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, a probate attorney can tell you that the probate process allows interested parties to make a claim, and allows the probate court to rule on controversial matters. On the other hand, it is also very time-consuming and expensive.
Regular Probate Process
If you find yourself in a situation where probate is necessary, it’s important to understand the steps to probating an estate.
If the decedent left a last will and testament, this document must be authenticated. An estate without a will is considered “intestate,” and in these cases, the decedent’s property is passed to their closest relatives according to state law.
A judge will appoint an executor or personal representative to the estate if one wasn’t specified in the will. Without a will or named executor, the court will appoint the decedent’s next of kin. If necessary, a bond is posted to act as an insurance policy if the executor acts in error during the probate process.
Executors are responsible for managing nearly all aspects of probate, including locating and determining the value of assets, paying any remaining debts of the decedent, preparing and filing tax returns, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries. If an existing will gives assets to minors, the executor will likely need to set up a trust as minors cannot legally own property.
The regular probate process is comprised of the following steps:
- Registration. The executor of the will shall file the will in the county where the deceased person lived to start the probate process. The executor will also need to file the appropriate paperwork asking the local probate court to open a case.
- Letters of Testamentary. The probate court will issue this letter to the executor of the estate, giving that person authority to gather the estate assets.
- Notice. The executor of the estate will provide notice to the beneficiaries of an estate, as well as to creditors, that the probate is beginning. This allows any and all interested parties to make a claim on estate assets.
- Debts. The executor of the estate may pay off the deceased person’s debts, as well as any taxes owed, such as estate and inheritance taxes.
Probate attorneys in Philadelphia will have you know that not all assets are subject to the probate process. Some assets may pass directly to the beneficiary without having to go through probate. Non-probate assets can include assets held in joint tenancy such as a home or bank account, life insurance policies, and retirement plans with a named beneficiary.
Simplified Probate Process
For small estates that contain no more than $25,000 of personal property, individuals may be able to use the simplified probate process. The simplified process begins with the executor of the estate filing a written request with the probate court. If permitted, the simplified process may allow the executor to avoid a lot of the formality and process of the regular probate process.
Contact a Philadelphia Probate Attorney
If you have any questions about probate law, you will want to contact an experienced probate attorney. Get help with your case today by seeking legal assistance.