What Is The Probate Process?

Probate is the court process used to determine the validity of a will and oversee the payment of creditors and distribution of estate assets. Even if there is no valid will at the time of death, the estate will still go through the probate procedure. Since probate is regulated by state laws, there are specific procedures prescribed by each state for carrying out the process.

If you are the executor of an estate, it is important to work with an attorney to ensure probate is conducted properly. The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski can help. We have more than 30 years of experience helping clients in Harrisburg and throughout south central Pennsylvania facilitate probate. Our attorneys are prepared to help you, too.

Probating The Estate

Despite the variation in state laws, probating the estate generally includes the following functions:

  • Petitioning the court to probate the will
  • Sending notice to creditors, beneficiaries and any other interested parties
  • Collecting, inventorying and appraising all estate assets
  • Collecting any payments, debts and income due to the estate
  • Paying any debts owed by the estate, including filing and paying local, state and federal taxes
  • Distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will

Small Estates

Most states have a fast-track or simplified probate process for smaller estates that meet certain qualifications. Normally, this process allows probating the estate before a court administrator rather than the probate court which can cut down on the time and cost of probate.

Disadvantages Of Probate

Time and expense: Probating an estate can be time-consuming, taking anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete. Contests to the validity of the will can increase the duration of the process. Probate also can be expensive, with any probate costs and fees coming out of the estate's funds.

Lack of privacy: Probate matters are part of the public record allowing anyone to find out the size, contents and beneficiaries of the estate. This lack of privacy can cause tension between family members.

For these reasons, many individuals engage in proactive estate planning in order to avoid probate.

Intestacy

If someone dies without a will or the probate court determines the will is invalid, that person is said to have died intestate. Each state has a set of default inheritance rules that apply in the absence of a will or other estate plan. These rules generally distribute property to the surviving spouse and children first followed by parents and other close family members. The only way to prevent the default rules from determining the distribution of assets is to have a valid will or trust in place before death.

Contact A Probate Attorney Today

An experienced probate and estate administration lawyer can help simplify the probate process for you. Contact The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski for more information and to schedule a consultation. You can call us at 717-260-3483 or toll free at 866-830-1116.