Whenever someone passes away in Pennsylvania, his or her estate will likely need to go through the probate process. This involves validating the will and distributing any assets and property the deceased individual owned.
The process begins when the estate’s executor, named in the will, files a probate petition with the register of wills in the county where the deceased resided at the time of his death. If there is no will or no executor named in the decedent’s will, the deceased’s spouse, adult child or closest living relative can petition the register of wills for letters of administration.
After accepting the paperwork for filing, the court issues an official document known as a short certificate giving the executor or administrator the authority to collect the assets of the estate and distribute them accordingly. This includes notifying all heirs, creditors and the public, through a newspaper notice, that the decedent’s estate administration has begun.
As part of the estate administration process the executor or administrator values and collects all of the decedent’s assets and pays any taxes or debts the estate owes, and sells any estate assets, if necessary. The executor or administrator will need to prepare and file the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return, which is applicable to anyone inheriting assets from a deceased person’s estate who is a Pennsylvania resident at the time of their death or owns property in Pennsylvania at the time of their death. This tax is not due for nine months after the person’s death, but there are discounts available for paying it early.
The executor or administrator may also need to prepare and file a Federal Estate Tax Return if the estate is subject to the Federal Estate Tax. Once all of the debts and taxes are paid and either a family settlement agreement has been signed by the beneficiaries or an account has been presented to the court the executor or administrator can proceed with distributing the remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries.
Administering an estate can be a complicated process. If you need guidance and advice on administering the affairs of a deceased loved one, consult one of our dedicated Pittsburgh estate planning and administration attorneys with Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C.