Probating a Last Will & Testament is a Five-Part Process in Pennsylvania.
The Register of Wills in each Pennsylvania County determines if a will is valid and hears any disputes from persons who might want to contest it. Probate is then handed over to the Orphan’s Court that will eventually close the estate when probate is completed.
- Step 1: The executor named under the Will should take the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate to the Register of Wills in the county where the testator, the person who made the will, lived. There are several forms to complete, including a petition for grant of letters and an estate information sheet. After taking an oath, the Register will give the executor the grant of letters, allowing he/she to act and make transactions for the testator’s estate. A probate fee is payable at this time, based on the estate’s value.
- Step 2: After the executor obtains the grant of letters, the estate shall then be advertised, advising the testator’s creditors that the estate has been probated. There is a limited amount of time in which claims can be made against the estate. All beneficiaries must also be given notice of the administration of the estate and a certification of the notice must then be filed with the Register of Wills.
- Step 3: All the documentation that supports the testator’s financial affairs, such as tax returns, account statements, credit card statements, deeds, mortgages, automobile titles and loans, etc. then needs to be gathered. It is then necessary to obtain a date of death value for each of decedent’s assets, including real estate and personal effects. Some assets may require professional appraisals, such as real estate or business interests.
- Step 4: It is the duty of the executor to pay all taxes that are due. Pennsylvania has an inheritance tax which must be paid within nine months of the testator’s date of death. Federal estate taxes might also be due, depending on the size of the estate. The testator’s individual tax returns must be filed for his last year of life.
- Step 5: All debts, including legitimate claims for debts received in response to the advertising of the estate, must then be paid. Then the estate is distributed, after payment of debts, taxes and estate expenses, to the will’s beneficiaries and then the estate is closed.
At Halligan & Keaton, in Media, Pennsylvania, we have more than 60 years of combined legal experience. We provide a free initial consultation to every client. To discuss your estate planning and estate administration needs with an experienced lawyer, call our office at 610-566-6030 or contact us online. We will travel to your home, a long-term care facility or the hospital to meet with you.