Find and secure the Will, all amendments to the Will and any previous Wills. Do not remove, add or alter any page.
Contact an Attorney
Call an estate planning and estate administration attorney to begin the probate process. The attorney should set up a consultation.
Before the consultation, you should gather the original Will, any Will amendments or codicils, and any previous Wills. You should also gather income tax returns for the last five years if possible, any statements from bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. Gather any bills or notes due. Make a list of valuables, including real and personal property, both located in Pennsylvania and any other state if applicable. All of these documents should be brought to the initial meeting with the attorney. Also, if applicable, bring a funeral cost list and receipts.
Determine Assets that must be Probated
At the initial meeting, the attorney will determine what assets need to be probated. Jointly held assets, assets in trust, and any asset with a beneficiary form (such as an IRA) do not go through the probate process, and are automatically distributed. The attorney will review the Will and other pertinent documents. The attorney, at the conclusion of the meeting, should be able to estimate the size of the probate estate, the attorney's fee, the possible PA inheritance tax due and possible federal estate tax due.
Executor is Assigned
The executor listed in the Will must go with the attorney to the Register of Wills office in the county where the Will originated from to probate the estate. At that point, the original Will and death certificate are presented, the executor is assigned after taking an oath, and the county fees to probate the estate are paid. The fee for the county depends on the size of the estate and how many certificates are issued.
Advertising of Estate for Creditor Claims
The estate is advertised for several weeks in two local newspapers, so that any creditors can make claims on the estate. Also during this time, notices are sent to all possible beneficiaries of the estate.
Pay Estimated PA Inheritance Tax To Get Discount
Within three months, the estate should pay at least an estimate of the PA inheritance tax to get a 5% discount. The full tax is due 9 months after passing. Also, when there is a federal estate tax due, that is also due 9 months after passing.
Estate is Distributed, Liquidated and Closed
The assets will be divided, liquidated, etc by the executor with the assistance of the attorney, bills will be paid with the estate account, and the estate will be closed.
These steps are a starting point designed to give you an understanding of the probate process. For more assistance, please contact our office today to set up an initial consultation.