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Probate Administration Attorneys in Chester County, PA
Probate is the legal process that is used to ensure that a deceased person’s debts and taxes are paid, and that assets are distributed according to their Last Will and Testament. At Perna & Abracht, LLC, our experienced probate lawyers guide you through the probate administration process every step of the way, which can make a difficult time easier for you and your family.
Our Probate Lawyers Help You Understand the Process
Simply put, in probate, the deceased person’s assets are collected and accounted-for, debts and taxes are paid, property is distributed to beneficiaries, and the estate is settled. Our probate litigation attorneys begin the process by filing a petition with the Register of Wills in the Pennsylvania county where the deceased person resided.
Our Probate Litigation Attorneys Are Here for You When Issues Arise
If there is no Will, the court appoints an administrator to handle the estate and assets are distributed according to Pennsylvania Intestacy laws- usually to the deceased’s closest relatives such as a spouse or children. Even if there is a Will and it is deemed valid, beneficiaries or other family members may attempt to challenge it during the probate process.
There are other circumstances that may also affect probate, including:
- Contesting of an executor’s appointment
- Ambiguities in a Will
- Unpaid taxes
- Issues with disputed debts or unresolved contracts
- Insufficient assets to cover all debts
- Property left to minors who do not have an appointed guardian or trustee
- Out-of-state property in the estate
- a Very large estate with diversified assets (our probate attorneys have experience handling estates both large and small)
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. This is just one reason why estate planning and creating a Will that reflects your wishes is so important.
How Long Does Probate Take?
Probate is a time-sensitive process. Depending on the complexity of the estate and any issues that may arise, probate may be completed in a matter of months or it can take years. Seeking the counsel of an experienced probate lawyer who will ensure all necessary probate paperwork is timely and properly filed, property is transferred, and fees and taxes are paid in a timely manner, is essential to expedite the process. A probate attorney can also help you avoid becoming mired in time-consuming legal issues when family disputes and other challenges arise.
Must All Assets Required to Go Through Probate?
Typically, only assets that are solely owned by the deceased person go through probate. Many common assets are exempt from probate, including:
- Assets held in trust
- Proceeds from life insurance policies
- Some Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs
- Payable-on-death bank accounts
- Joint tenancy or Co-tenancy property
Our knowledgeable probate lawyers will advise you on which assets must be included in probate. We can also assist you with valuable estate planning tools such as trusts, which can provide tax benefits and ensure that certain family members are well taken care of after you die.
Do All Estates Need to be Probated?
No. If all assets and property in the estate are held in a trust or transferable outside probate, opening a probate case is not required. However, the estate must still pay debts and taxes, even if it does not go through probate.
Learn about the 3 things that could happen if you do not probate a Will.
Is There a Simplified Procedure for Small Estates in Pennsylvania?
The simplified probate option for small estates in Pennsylvania can make it easier and more economical for loved ones to transfer property after a family member’s death. The estate must be worth less than $50,000, excluding certain assets such as real estate and life insurance policy proceeds.
To use the simplified probate process, the executor or personal representative of the estate must file a written request with the county probate court (Orphan’s Court in PA). If the estate is approved for simplified probate, the process likely will take a shorter amount of time and the estate will be distributed more quickly. However, creditors and taxes must still be paid. Before initiating this process, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced probate lawyer. Our estate administration attorneys can evaluate your circumstances and help you avoid any potential pitfalls so the process runs smoothly.
Does Pennsylvania Have an Inheritance Tax?
Pennsylvania has an inheritance tax, which is due within nine months of the date of death. The percentage owed depends on the beneficiary’s relationship with the deceased person. For example, spouses do not have to pay inheritance tax, but children, grandchildren, siblings, and others may pay anywhere from 4.5% to 15%. Having our probate attorneys assist you with handling the estate can help to ensure that inheritance taxes are paid on time. We can also help with any federal estate tax that may be owed.
Can a Probate Litigation Attorney Help Me Contest a Will?
Our probate litigation attorneys are well-versed in both challenging and defending Will contests. In Pennsylvania, a Will can be contested before it is admitted to probate by filing a caveat with the Register of Wills in the country where the person died. A hearing will then be held by the Register of Wills before the Will is admitted to probate.
A Will also may be contested after it is admitted to probate. This type of challenge is litigated in the Orphans’ Court. You must show you have cause to contest a Will. Undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, and forgery are common reasons someone may decide to challenge a Will. These cases are complex and winning can seem like an uphill battle. Our probate litigation lawyers can negotiate on your behalf and handle all aspects of your case to help you resolve any issues related to the validity of a Will.
Learn how to contest a Will.
I’m the Executor of a Loved One’s Estate. Where Should I Start?
Seeking the advice of our probate administration lawyers from the outset can help make the process less overwhelming, and may save you time and money in the long term. We can advise and assist you with collecting the documents you’ll need, including the Will, trust documents, insurance policies, bank statements, brokerage and retirement accounts, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, deeds, titles, tax returns, and other vital information.
Why Choose Our Probate Lawyers?
Our dedicated team can help you understand the probate and estate administration process and guide you through it every step of the way. We can assist you with:
Preparing and filing court documents
Opening and managing the estate’s bank account
Obtaining proceeds from life insurance policies
Identifying and securing assets
Real property appraisals
Determining whether estate or inheritance taxes are due
Filing returns and paying taxes
Creating the estate’s final financial accounting
Distributing assets to beneficiaries
Defending Will contests and challenges to estate administration
Being the executor or personal representative of an estate can be daunting. Our probate administration attorneys can take the weight off your shoulders and provide the compassionate legal support you need.
If you have a specific legal question that you would like answered without any obligation to retain our firm, please schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our attorneys below.
Our probate law firm is committed to making the probate process as easy and stress-free as possible for you and your family. Contact us here or call us at 610-708-1970 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Chester County estate planning attorneys at Perna & Abracht, LLC.
Our Office is Located at:
610 Millers Hill
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Serving Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware
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