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What exactly is probate & when is it needed?

Bensalem, PA |

loved one passes with no will. No surviving spouse. 2 adult children

Attorney Answers 3


The administration of an estate, commonly referred to as probate, is the legal process by which a personal representative, called an executor if the deceased had a Will or and Administrator if there is no will, safeguards the deceased’s assets, pays the deceased’s final bills and debts, files final state and federal income tax returns, files a inheritance tax return, and then distributes the remaining assets as directed in the Last Will and Testament or as determined by the law of intestacy if there was no Will. It is necessary whenever the decedent has assets solely in the decedent's name.

NOTE: Mr. Fischer is an attorney licensed to practice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at 610-269-0900 Ext 2 or This answer was prepared for educational purposes only. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. Frequently the question does not include significant and important facts and time lines that if known could significantly change the response. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question.

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Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, whether the person dies with or without a will. Probate is initiated at the Register of Wills by (usually) a family member or beneficiary who petition to be named as the administrator (or administratrix, if female) of the estate. The administrator, once appointed, is responsible for ensuring the deceased person's assets are safeguarded, the debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining property is distributed to the heirs in the manner prescribed by Pennsylvania law.

The function of the probate process is to make sure title of the decedent's property passes to the heirs, and that the claims of the deceased person's creditors are extinguished.

Probate should be opened for any estate where the deceased person was the sole owner of real estate or personal property. If all of the property was owned in joint names or in a trust, then probate *might* not have to be opened.

You really should contact an estates attorney for a consultation.


Marshall Chriswell

Law Offices of Marshall D. Chriswell
714 Philadelphia St., Suite 200
Indiana, PA 15701
(888) 438-5977
(724) 465-5826


Marshall D. Chriswell is a civil practitioner with offices in Indiana and Clearfield Counties. Mr. Chriswell's practice emphasizes Wills & Estate Planning, Probate, Real Estate, and general civil disputes.


Mr. Chriswell provides free initial consultations, and will gladly meet clients in their homes upon request, including on the evenings or weekends.

This communication does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, feel free to contact our offices.

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