Many families feel overwhelmed by everything that must be taken care of after a loved one passes, with everything that needs to be done to properly settle their estate. Although there is no set time limit on how long you have to settle an estate in Pennsylvania, probate and estate lawyers can help you get it done in a timely manner and guide you through the process.
What if Probate is Delayed?
When an estate is not there are various repercussions that may have an impact on the estate, including:
- The statute of limitations for creditors’ claims may be extended
- The value of assets may decrease or they may be lost altogether
- The state may claim assets
- The executor or personal representative may face personal or criminal liability
- Intrest and penalties for late filing of Inheritance tax return
Statute of Limitations for Creditors
In Pennsylvania, creditors have one year from the date that notice of the estate is published in local newspapers to pursue any debts of the deceased. Failing to open an estate right away can result in an estate being in limbo or probate dragging on if a creditor shows up to collect a debt months or years later. If you are the executor or personal representative of an estate and find that you do not have the time or emotional energy to probate a will promptly, an attorney for wills and trusts can help take some of the weight off your shoulders and keep the process on track.
Devaluation of Assets
Assets such as real estate and vehicles are often uncared for when the probating of an estate is delayed. Any outstanding mortgage or loan that is left unpaid can lead to foreclosure or repossession by the lender. If a home is neglected and falls into disrepair, its market value can be significantly reduced. The same goes for a vehicle that is left unattended and unused. In addition, investments that are ignored or mismanaged can suffer serious market losses.
Valuable personal possessions may go missing or decrease in value as well. All these issues can lead to beneficiaries receiving much less than they would have if an estate had been probated and settled in a timely manner. In rare cases, when no heirs can be found, a court-appointed administrator may settle the estate and the state may claim its residual value.
Potential Personal and Criminal Liability
Neglecting to file a will or initiate probate is not a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, but consequences can definitely arise due to a delay. Inheritance taxes are due within nine months of a person’s death, and the estate is entitled to receive a 5% discount if they are paid within three months of the death.
If beneficiaries suffer financial losses due to an executor’s inaction or mismanagement of an estate, they can pursue legal action for damages against the executor or personal representative. An executor may be subject to criminal charges if it is proven that they deliberately avoided filing a will or concealed it for financial gain.
If you need assistance with probate or settling an estate, our estate law attorneys can help.