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Things to know about Pennsylvania's probate process

An executor can utilize a proper estate plan to administer the estate. However, the courts also ensure its proper handling.

In order to create a smooth process, it is important that executors be familiar with the set rules and regulations. There are a few key things to know about the probate process in Pennsylvania.

Exemptions that do not go through probate

In the state of Pennsylvania, all estates must go through the probate process. However, there are certain aspects of an estate that may be exempt. Some of the assets that are commonly exempt include:

  • Life insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Annuities
  • Jointly owned property

These are a few of the exempt properties. There are also other assets, such as wages and bank account funds, that may be partially released to a spouse or relative without probate.

A simplified probate process

Many small estates may undergo a simplified probate process, which tends to be quicker and less costly than a regular probate. According to Pennsylvania law, a qualifying small estate is one that is valued at no more than $50,000. This amount does not include real estate, exempt assets or burial expenses. To begin the process, the account executor must file a request with the court to utilize the simplified process.

The regular probate process

For a regular probate process, the executor must begin by filing the will with the county Register of Wills and a petition of probate with the local probate court. The court must then provide the executor with Letters Testamentary to handle the administration of the estate. Once the executor receives permission, he or she must notify heirs, beneficiaries, creditors and the public about the probate. To begin the probate process, the executor usually pays off debts, and then distributes the rest amongst the beneficiaries as the will designates.

These are just brief summaries of the possible probate processes. Someone who is the administrator or recipient of an estate may benefit from taking some time to review these processes in their entirety, to understand the path to take.

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