What is the Probate Process?

May 10, 2021

After a person passes away, the executor of their will go through the local probate court to prove validity and show details of the will, including property, debts, and inheritances. Then, relatives and creditors will receive notice of the person’s passing. If the person does not have a will, the court will appoint the next of kin as the executor to oversee the probate process.

The purpose of probate is to make sure the deceased’s property is distributed to beneficiaries according to their wishes and to make sure that all debt is paid off. Another benefit is that property values will be revealed during the probate process. Appraisal is important because there are different processes for estates with different values.

It is important to understand that the probate process is not universal; it varies state to state. For this reason, it is critical to speak to a lawyer. In Pennsylvania, the probate process primarily involves paying off debts and transferring assets to the designated beneficiaries. The administrator of the estate will collect all assets of the deceased; pay off funeral expenses, creditors, taxes, and other bills; and distribute the remainder of the assets.

Are Some Assets Excluded from Probate?

Typically, assets that go through probate are the ones that belonged to the deceased under their name. The common assets that skip the probate process include the following:

Some small cash amounts do not need to go through probate. These assets are usually given to the surviving spouse or children. These cash-related assets include:

What is the Process for Small Estates?

The standard probate process can be complicated and lengthy, but some assets go through different procedures to make matters less complex. In Pennsylvania, smaller estates, those that are valued at $50,000 or less, have a much less complicated probate process. The executor of the state will request the probate court to go through simpler procedures to handle the small estate. Then, they distribute the asset without going through the standard probate process.

If the estate is large, formal probate proceedings are required. It is important to note that Pennsylvania does not have its own estate tax, but it does have inheritance tax.

What is the Inheritance Estate Tax in Pennsylvania?

The amount of the inheritance tax in Pennsylvania depends on the relationships between the heirs and the deceased. The inheritance tax is a percentage of the deceased’s estate that is transferred to the beneficiaries. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, the inheritance tax rates include these provisions:

There are ways to minimize inheritance tax rates for beneficiaries, such as setting up jointly owned accounts, gifting assets to children, and utilizing the life insurance policy. To understand how one can make sure that their beneficiaries and estates will be taken care of after their passing, it is important to speak to a lawyer.

Delaware County Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Navigate the Complicated Probate Process

The Delaware County wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. help clients with estate planning needs, and we can answer your concerns about the probate process. If you are looking to make sure your assets are properly distributed after your passing, we can help you. Complete our online form or call us at 610-565-3701 for a free consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.