In Pennsylvania, you are not required to hire a lawyer for probate, but the process can be complex and time-consuming. To ensure all your legal bases are covered and required petitions and forms are filed in a timely manner, seeking the counsel of experienced probate and estate lawyers can be extremely helpful. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to hire an attorney, such as the lack of a will, size of an estate and guardianship of minor children.
How Do I Start The Probate Process?
To initiate the probate process, a petition must be filed with the Pennsylvania Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided. For example, if your loved one lived in Media, hiring Delaware County lawyers who are familiar with the local courts may help make the process run more smoothly. Jointly owned assets, certain types of trusts and assets such as life insurance or IRA’s with beneficiary designations may not have to go through probate. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you on which assets must be included in probate.
Common Issues Involved In Probate
Even if a will is deemed valid, a beneficiary may attempt to contest it during the probate process. If a valid will is not in place at the time of a decedent’s passing, the probate process can be complicated. The estate must pass through Intestacy laws, and property is given to those who are entitled to it under the Pennsylvania Intestacy statute (typically the surviving spouse and children of the decedent); not according to the decedent’s wishes.
If there is no executor, an administrator will be appointed by the probate court to handle the estate. It is vital to keep in mind that the court also has the authority to designate a guardian for minor children if there is no will. Creating a will with a practiced attorney for wills and trusts can ensure that your legacy lives on and your children are taken care of according to your wishes.
Depending on the complexity of an estate, probate may involve extensive administrative paperwork and litigation. It is essential to understand exactly which fees and taxes must be paid, and when. The probate process is very time-sensitive, and a skilled attorney will make sure all deadlines are met to keep the process running smoothly.
There are additional circumstances that may affect probate, including:
- Complicated tax situations, such as unpaid taxes
- Ambiguities in a will
- Disputed claims by beneficiaries
- Someone contesting an executor’s appointment
- Issues with disputed debts or unfinished contracts
- Property bequeathed to minors who do not have an appointed guardian or trustee
- The estate’s assets do not cover all debts
- Out-of-state property included in the estate
- A very large estate with diversified assets
Estate planning lawyers can take some of these burdens off of an executor’s or administrator’s shoulders. The process of sorting out an estate can be very emotional, and creating wills and trusts ahead of time can help your family avoid unnecessary conflict and stress. To learn more about estate planning and probate, contact our experienced Delaware and Chester County lawyers to schedule a consultation today.