Pennsylvania’s Probate Court
Why Probate is Necessary
Probate court can seem overwhelming, but it’s a necessary process designed to efficiently transfer property and guardianship to heirs and family members. The more estate planning tools you have in place now (such as a will, advance directives and living trusts), the more control your family will have throughout the probate proceedings.
Here are some things you should know about probate court:
The major reason to submit a Will to Pennsylvania’s Registrar of Wills is to submit the last will and testament of a loved one after they have passed away. Submitting the last will to probate court is the only legally valid way to carry out a loved one’s final wishes (if there is no will available, the individual has died “intestate” and the probate court will assign an executor who can administer the process while the court itself decides inheritance).
Submitting a Last Will to Orphan’s Court
The Value of Using a Probate or Estate Planning Attorney
As you can see, probate proceedings can be quite complicated. Using an attorney to help in the process can be extremely beneficial. Here’s why:
- 1. A probate attorney knows exactly which forms to fill out and how, as well as when and where each step in the process needs to take place.
- 2. A last will must be filed in the county where the deceased resided at the time of death, not where the executor of the will resides. This can lead to logistical complications for an executor who is working through the process alone.
- 3. A probate attorney can identify shortcuts on the process, for instance by recognizing when Independent Administration can be used or by taking the guesswork out of many of issues that can stall a guardianship proceeding or will administration.
The best plan yet is to consult an estate planning attorney BEFORE circumstances call for a probate proceeding. Oftentimes, tools such as a revocable living trust can allow many assets to pass through to benefactors outside of probate. A Pennsylvania living trust can help keep the value of assets private (while the value of anything passing down to beneficiaries outside of a trust is public record). It can also expedite the inheritance process, which is particularly beneficial for those with family businesses and other assets that require constant and immediate administration.