my sister in law is the personal representitive of my father in laws will and trust account. probate is over on feb.11,2010. Can she decide to take as long as she wants to send us our inheritance money? We assumed it should be sent out right after probate ends?
Estate Planning Attorney
The length of probate in Pennsylvania is dictated by several factors, the most important of which is the twelve month period during which creditors may step forward to file a claim with the estate. The opening of an estate must be advertised in two periodicals of local circulation three times, and upon the running of the last advertisement, the 12 month period for creditors to file claims is open. Thus, any payment to beneficiaries prior to the running of the 12 months is an "at-risk" distribution, where the beneficiary could be forced to repay the distribution if a creditor came forward after a beneficiary was paid.
Assuming that the end of the 12 month period is what is meant by probate being "over", the estate is not necessarily complete. It is possible that there is real estate that must be sold or other matters to be completed prior to a point when beneficiaries should be paid. Probate cannot truly be closed until after all valid creditors have been paid and the balance of estate funds have been distributed to beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries do have certain rights, however. At 2 years after the opening of an estate, the personal representative must file a status report with the orphans' court division of the county in which the estate was opened. Also, a beneficiary could file a motion to compel an accounting with the orphans' court division, which, if successful, could force the personal representative to disclose all transfers in and out of the estate since its opening. If a beneficiary feels that the personal representative is dragging his/her feet, then the beneficiary should hire an attorney to begin pressuring the personal representative to wrap up the estate. Some personal representatives (and their attorneys) are in no hurry to conclude an open estate.