One of the most common reasons that people create a comprehensive estate plan is that they want to keep their assets out of probate court. The more time in court that an estate requires, the more the estate administration process will cost.
Additionally, family members will have to wait for the resolution of several stages of the probate process, including the creditor claims process, before they receive their inheritances in most cases. As a result, avoiding this process is usually ideal.
Probate usually takes more than a year
Although family members are often eager to receive inherited assets as quickly as possible, the probate process is a lengthy one. When full probate court oversight is necessary because the estate is sizable, contains real property or is the subject of a dispute, people can expect probate proceedings to take roughly 18 months, if not longer. Litigation related to questions of testamentary capacity, fraud or undue influence might extend that timeline even further.
One of the reasons the process takes so long is that creditors and other interested parties need an opportunity to learn about the death and make a claim in probate court. They will typically have one year from the date of publication of probate notice to file a claim in probate court, and the executor usually can’t finish the process until after they have repaid someone’s debts and then distributed the rest of the property held by the estate.
Beneficiaries often have to wait until after the fulfillment of all financial obligations to receive the full value of their inheritance in many cases. However, when someone has a small estate, it is often possible to streamline the probate process. If the total value of the estate is $50,000 or less, there is a simplified process available in Pennsylvania. After filing an affidavit that establishes that an estate meets various legal requirements, the executor or personal representative of the estate can follow a streamlined probate process, although certain forms of oversight are still necessary.
Understanding the general timeline for probate proceedings in Pennsylvania may help beneficiaries temper their expectations and may also help executors understand the seriousness of the responsibility they have just accepted. Additionally, this knowledge can help those who are creating an estate plan to take proactive steps to keep their assets out of probate.