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Probate Terms You Should Know

Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. April 25, 2022

Gavel and Probate Law book on a tableSettling a decedent's final affairs and distributing assets to beneficiaries often require the surviving loved ones to trudge through the probate process. During probate, the deceased person's assets are collected and evaluated, debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to the rightful beneficiaries and heirs. A knowledgeable Pennsylvania estate planning attorney can help you navigate key decisions in this process.

At Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C., we are dedicated to offering experienced legal services and guidance to individuals, families, and fiduciaries involved in the probate process. As your legal counsel, we can enlighten you about how probate works in Pennsylvania and some important terms to know. Our firm is proud to serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Common Terms Used in Pennsylvania Probate

Knowing the terms used in probate is essential to understanding the process. Here are some common terms used in Pennsylvania probate and estate planning matters:

  • Probate: Probate is a court-supervised process required to settle a decedent's final affairs. During probate, the court will appoint an executor or personal representative to gather and evaluate the deceased person's assets, pay debts and taxes, and eventually transfer the remaining assets to rightful beneficiaries.

  • Personal Representative: A personal representative is an executor of the deceased person's estate. The personal representative oversees probate when the decedent dies with a will. If the decedent died intestate (without a valid will), the personal representative would serve as the administrator.

  • Administrator: A probate administrator is an executor appointed by the probate court to handle the probate process if the decedent died intestate. Once a petition has been filed, the Register of Wills will appoint an administrator of the estate.

  • Estate: The estate includes all of the assets, property, belongings, and possessions of the decedent.

  • Testate: Testate means that a person died with a valid will. Here, the testator’s estate will be administered in accordance with the provisions of the will.

  • Intestate Succession: Intestate succession refers to a situation whereby a person dies without a valid will or estate plan. In such situations, Pennsylvania's intestate succession laws will be used to determine the order of who inherits the deceased person's estate.

  • Decedent: A decedent is a person who has died or passed away. It is their will (or estate) that is going through probate.

  • Beneficiary: A beneficiary is a person, business, institution, or trustee who inherits the property or receives benefits under a will or trust.

  • Heir: An heir is a person who receives benefits or inherits the property under the intestate succession laws when there is no valid will.

  • Will: A will is a legal document that provides detailed instructions about how a person’s estate and assets should be administered or distributed to beneficiaries and heirs when they're gone.

  • Order of Probate: In Pennsylvania, the court must determine the validity of the will and allow the personal representative or executor to distribute the deceased person's assets according to the terms and provisions of the will. This order is known as the Order of Probate.

  • Letters Testamentary: Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) are issued by the probate court and give the personal representative the authority to act on the estate's behalf.

  • Guardianship: Guardianship is a fiduciary relationship established by state law whereby a court appoints a person or entity (the guardian) to make decisions about the personal care, legal, property, and financial affairs of an incapacitated or disabled adult.

Let Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. Help

Going through probate in Pennsylvania after a loved one's death can be emotional and usually involves a lot of complex procedures. However, knowing what to expect can make it easier for you to navigate probate successfully. An experienced estate planning attorney can enlighten you about the probate process and help you navigate critical decisions.

At Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C., we have the experience, diligence, and resources to advise and guide clients in estate planning-related matters, including probate. As your legal counsel, we can evaluate the details of the estate plan, help you understand the probate process, and clarify what to expect. Also, our trusted team will walk you through every phase of the probate process from start to finish and work diligently with other parties to settle probate disputes and issues amicably and quickly.

Contact Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. today to schedule a simple consultation with a skilled probate attorney. We proudly serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania.