Settling the deceased's affairs without a will, trust, or estate planning document can be complex and emotional. In Pennsylvania, probate is a court-supervised process required to settle the final affairs of the deceased. Through probate, the surviving spouse and family members have the legal authority to collect the deceased's assets and estate, pay debts and taxes, and ultimately transfer assets to inheritors.
At Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C., we are dedicated to providing outstanding legal services. We can assist beneficiaries with all stages of the estate probate process or trust administration. We will preserve your family assets and protect your legacy. Richard L Vanderslice proudly serves clients throughout Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Probate refers to the court-supervised process whereby all the assets and estate of the deceased are gathered and assessed, taxes and debts are paid, and heirs are determined. In Pennsylvania, probate occurs after a person dies, regardless of whether or not the decedent died with or without a valid will.
If a person dies with a valid will, their property will be distributed according to the will’s provisions. However, if a person dies without a will, then Pennsylvania probate laws will determine how the decedent's final affairs will be settled. Court supervision is often necessary when family members, close relatives, or creditors are combative about the decedent's assets.
Pennsylvania offers a simplified probate process. It involves two steps:
Paying the taxes and debts of the decedent
Transferring any assets or property to the beneficiaries or heirs
A probate process starts when the court appoints a personal representative to handle the administration of the estate. The personal representative must:
Gather all the decedent's assets
Pay the bills, including funeral expenses, taxes, debts, creditors, and general administrative expenses
Transfer any assets that are left over to heirs
While all estates in Pennsylvania go through the probate process, there are some assets, such as life insurance, retirement plans, annuities, and jointly owned property, that are exempt from probate when they are set up properly. In order for your loved ones to avoid probate on certain items in your estate you should:
Write a living trust
Name beneficiaries on your retirement and bank accounts
Establish joint ownership for real estate with rights of survivorship
Give away your property
Operate pay-on-death financial accounts
Transfer on death for real estate
Use beneficiary designations
Being able to exempt certain accounts and properties of your estate will save your loved ones time and money in the probate process.
Creating a will or living trust can help avoid probate. Wills are cheaper up front but won't allow your family to avoid probate later on. On the other hand, trusts are a bit trickier, and pricier upfront but are designed to prevent your family from having to go through probate upon your death.
Probate and estate planning is a very complicated area of law. Hiring a knowledgeable probate attorney is crucial to get the comprehensive legal counsel and proper guidance when determining your will, trust, and estate plan.
Pennsylvania’s Small Estates Act allows heirs or surviving children to obtain the deceased’s property without probate if the deceased left a will but the estate is worth less than $50,000. The small estate process is generally less formal and quicker.
According to recent statistics from Forbes, more than 55% percent of Americans die without having a will or estate plan, despite their priorities. As a result, the surviving family members have to go through the probate process. Thankfully, our experienced team at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C., are fully prepared to provide comprehensive legal guidance and advocacy on all matters of probate. We can help you:
Assess your situation and understand your options
Guide you through the entire probate process
Help update your existing wills/trusts
We provide compassionate counsel and aggressive litigation strategies. Call Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. today to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania probate attorney.
The probate process is very complex and emotional. However, you don't have to go through it alone. Contact Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C., and let our knowledgeable and experienced probate attorneys offer you proper guidance and help you navigate key decisions. We proudly serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Call us today to schedule a one-on-one case evaluation with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania probate attorney.