Probate & Estate Administration
When a Pennsylvania resident passes away, his or her estate must go through “probate” in order to distribute the assets left behind and wind-up all the affairs of the decedent. Probate is the term for the legal process of proving the validity of a will and administering the estate of the deceased. The probate process is very time sensitive and involves multiple deadlines related to the filing of petitions, inheritance tax returns, notice requirements, inventories and status reports. Do not hesitate to start this process! If you have a loved one who recently passed away and you need assistance with the Pennsylvania probate process, contact Robert Fravel today for a consultation.
What should I do if a loved one recently passed and named me as Executor of the estate? The first thing to do is locate the decedent’s original will. The original will must be filed with the appropriate Register of Wills at the outset of probate. The next step would be to hire an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you through this process.
Do all of the decedent’s assets pass through probate? Not necessarily. It depends on how the assets are titled. If the assets are titled in the name of a trust established during the life of the deceased, or if the assets are owned jointly they will be excluded from the probate process. Additionally, life insurance and most retirement plans pass outside of probate.
What about estate tax? Pennsylvania is one of the few remaining states that imposes an inheritance tax. Technically this is a tax imposed on the beneficiaries, but practically speaking the tax is normally paid from the estate assets. The Pennsylvania inheritance tax rates are as follows:
· Spouse – 0.0%
· Children – 4.5%
· Siblings – 12%
· Everyone else – 15%
There are also federal estate taxes. However, unless your estate is valued at more than $5.45 million, you do not need to worry about federal estate taxes. Practically speaking, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you will not have to worry about federal estate taxes unless your estate is worth $11 million (approximately). So for most of us, federal estate taxes aren’t an issue. But if you believe they may be an issue for you estate, there are various estate planning devices and practices than can help reduce the amount of taxes your estate will owe.
How long does the probate process take? Each estate is different, and as a result the time table for probate varies for every estate. If there is no litigation involved, the time table to complete the probate process is generally between 9 and 15 months, depending on the complexity of the estate.
For more information on this topic, contact Robert Fravel today to set up a consultation.