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 executor, typically named in the will, files for probate with the register of wills in the county where the deceased last resided. If there is no executor, the deceased’s spouse or adult child usually assumes this role. The executor then files a petition for probate, which may involve paying a fee of a few hundred dollars, depending on the county.
After reviewing the paperwork, the court issues an official document authorizing the executor to collect the assets of the estate to distribute them accordingly. This includes notifying all heirs, creditors and the public — usually through a newspaper notice — that the probate process will commence soon.
The executor collects all assets and pays any taxes or debts the estate owes, potentially selling real estate holdings if necessary. He or she may also need to manage Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax, which is applicable to anyone (except for surviving spouses) inheriting assets from a deceased person’s estate. This tax is not due for nine months after the person’s death, but there are discounts available for paying it early.
Once all debts and taxes are paid, the executor distributes the remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries. As part of this process, the executor produces a final accounting that details the items within the estate and how they will be distributed. The executor may opt to have beneficiaries review and sign the document, and then must submit it to the probate court.
Executing an estate can be a complicated process. If you need guidance and advice on managing the affairs of a deceased loved one, consult a dedicated Pittsburgh estate planning and administration attorney with Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C.