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Estates & Probate Services

When a person passes away, many times a Will must be recorded in the Courthouse. This process is known as Probate. Our firm can assist you in the probate process as well as the issues of overseeing the organization of the deceased' s assets, payment of the decedent' s debts from assets of the estate, distribution of remaining assets according to the decedent's will or estate plan, and the preparation of any estate inheritance tax return or federal estate tax return. Whatever your situation, if someone close to you has recently passed away, you should Contact Us to schedule an appointment to speak to one of our knowledgeable and understanding estates attorneys so that you may find out all of your resulting rights and responsibilities. In the meantime, we hope the following will help give you a better understanding of what is involved in the probate process and estate administration.

I’ve Been Name Executor of a Will. Now What?
If you have been named as executor of a will or appointed by a probate court to settle a family member's estate, Shulman & Shabbick can assist in fulfilling your legal duties. Whether your needs entail a large estate or a simple small estate, we can help you.

Upon a person’s death in Pennsylvania, their will is usually filed with the probate court and its validity determined. All property, debts, and claims of the estate are inventoried and appraised. All valid claims of the estate are collected, and the remainder is distributed to beneficiaries according to the will. If there is no will, the person is said to have died intestate, and to probate the estate may require filing for Letters of Administration. For those deceased persons who did make a will in Pennsylvania, they are deemed as being deceased testate. In such a circumstance, the will needs to be probated and proper procedures followed thereafter. In probate, the person(s) in control are called the Executor(s) or Executirix(\(\(es).

In order to probate an estate, several legal considerations come into play, including tranfers of all property and the mandatory tax fees and returns that Pennsylvania and Federal Law require. In most situations the best thing you can do is hire an experienced legal professional to guide you through the process. We can help marshal assets, pay debts of the estate, liquidate a home or business, resolve life insurance and benefit matters, distribute assets, and file inheritance tax returns.

What is Probate Litigation?
Occasionally, the validity of the will is disputed. We represent named beneficiaries or excluded heirs in such will contests. Will contests can arise from claims of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, missing assets, not having a witness. We also represent executors, personal representatives, and other fiduciaries accused of fraud, theft, or incompetence in settling an estate.

What is “Probate” and “Estate Administration?”
Probate is the court-supervised legal procedure that determines the validity of your will. Estate Administration is a term used to describe the legal process by which property is transferred after a person's death, debts are settled, as well as the handling of legal issues related to the collection, management, and distribution of an estate.

What is the Probate Process in Pennsylvania?
When a person passes away, their assets need to be distributed to their heirs, their debts need to be paid, and any loose ends need to be looked after. Obviously, the deceased person can’t sign the deeds, write the checks, or handle their business affairs after they have passed. Instead, an estate is created for the purpose of carrying out those duties. The probate process is a long, cumbersome, complicated, and bureaucratic nightmare for most families. Each estate is different, and requires different actions. Generally, though, the settling of an estate can be broken down into five basic steps:

  1. Recording the Will & Gathering Materials
    The original signed will must be submitted to the court, along with a filing fee, to begin the probate process. The probate court will then approve or appoint someone to handle the affairs of the estate - an executor, administrator or personal representative, depending whether the decedent dies with or without a will.

  2. Publishing Notice to Creditors
    The decedent’s creditors must then be notified so that they can present their claims to the court for payment. This requires the time-consuming task of cataloging all of the decedent’s liabilities.

  3. Inventory & Appraise Assets
    During probate, all of the assets in the estate must be inventoried and appraised.

  4. Payment of Debts, Claims, & Taxes
    The decedent’s debts must be paid. Legal and other claims must also be resolved. Some estates may also have tax liability and they must stay open until those taxes are paid.

  5. Final Distribution & the Closing of the Estate
    Finally, after all debts, claims, taxes, attorney’s fees, the personal representative’s compensation, and any other miscellaneous expenses are paid, an accounting of everything that has taken place in the estate must be done.

Probate - American Bar Association Division of Public Education
http://www.abanet.org/publiced/practical/probate.html


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