You are permitted to enter the safe deposit box of the decedent prior to appointment as the Administrator of the decedent's estate to retrieve a will. I recommend that you contact the bank where the safe deposit box is located to determine their proceedure so that you are prepared in advance. The bank employee will be required to prepare an inventory of the contents, which must be provided to the Department of Revenue.
Petition for Letters Testimentary or Administration
If the decedent had a will, the Executor will be named in the document. The person named as executor will need to appear before the Register of Wills of the county in which the decedent was domiciled at death. The Register of Wills will swear them in and will provide the Letters Testamentary or Administration.
Remember, you will need a valid State issued identification, an original death certificate and a check for the cost of probate. Check with the local Register of Wills to ensure they will accept a personal check.
In the event the decedent died without a will, one of ther persons named in 20 Pa.C.S.A. section 3155, et. seq., will be appointed upon petition of the party. Remember, if multiple people are qualified under the same catagory of preference, you will have to have renunciations from all persons in order for one party to be appointed.
Advertise the Estate
The advertisement of the estate begins the running of the period of time after which an account may be filed and the time period for creditors to make their claims. It is important that you advertise the estate as soon as possible.
The advertisement must be placed in two publications. First, a paper in the county the estate is raised of general circulation. Second, you must advertise in the local legal journal. Please note, in Philadelphia County you must advertise in the Legal Intelligencer.
Notice of Assumption of Fiduciary Duties
You should give notice to the IRS of your appointment as Personal Representative of the Estate. This may be accomplished by filing IRS Form 56 with the Internal Revenue Service. This form may be found on the IRS website.
This form is important because the IRS may get a valid assessment against the decedent by simply mailing their notice to the last known address of the decedent. Under federal law it does not matter if the executor actually received the notice.
Apply for an Employer Identification Number
In order to open a bank account and file a Federal inheritance tax return, if required, you will need an EIN. An EIN may be received by completing an online request. This process is rather simple and you will receive the EIN immediately, assuming there are no issues. I will provide the website address below for your convenience.
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