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Frequently Asked Questions About Probate

After someone dies, the process of executing their plans for the estate will go into effect. For many, this involves probate in order to prove and execute a will that was drafted previous to that person’s passing. Probate is a long and complicated process whereby the beneficiaries of the will are required to go through a lengthy court process in order to receive their share of the estate. As Pittsburgh estate planning attorneys representing hundreds of clients facing probate, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions concerning probate.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of proving the validity of a will and carrying out the conditions stated in that will. During probate, the court will go through and take inventory of the estate owner’s assets, have the property appraised, carry out measures to pay outstanding taxes and debts and then distribute the remaining property among the beneficiaries according to the wishes of the deceased person.

Why must an estate go through court?

The necessity of probate primarily concerns administrative dealings of one’s estate and financial affairs after they pass on. Probate is necessary for transferring property, paying taxes and settling outstanding debt.

What happens if there is no will?

If there is no will, the probate court will name a personal representative of the deceased person who will be the executor of the estate. That individual will then be responsible for paying any outstanding tax or credit debts and then distribute the remaining assets according to the Probate laws of Pennsylvania.

Can a will be changed?

The owner of the estate can change a drafted will by drafting an entirely new will. Once the estate owner has passed, the will cannot be changed or revoked. However, there are some exceptions when the court may grant a revision if all of the beneficiaries agree to the change.

How are debts and taxes handled in probate?

Once the property and assets in the will have been accounted for and appraised, the top priority of the probate court will be to see any outstanding debts and taxes paid in full. This will be done prior to any distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries. Only after the debt and taxes are paid will the remaining assets be distributed according to the deceased person’s will.

What if someone objects to a will?

The only people with grounds to object to the terms of a will are those named in the will as beneficiaries. Any objections to a will or claims to a different will than that which is already in probate will begin what is called a will contest. Will contests will significantly lengthen the duration of probation as the court will need to find standing for the contest and the individual making the objection will be required to prove their claims.

What are the grounds to contest a will?

There are three main grounds that constitute a will contest. The first is that the beneficiary claims that the will was not properly administered. This can concern anything from the drafting of the will, the signing or the witness of the will. An individual may also claim that fraud was involved in the administration of the will or that the will was forged by someone other than the actual owner of the estate. The third possible claim for contest is that the decedent (the drafter of the will) lacked full mental capacity at the time that the will was being drafted. This means that their mental incapacity would have hindered their ability to draft the will as they would if they were “in their right mind.”

How much does probate cost in Pennsylvania?

The cost of probate will vary depending on what county the will is processed in. There will be a fee for the services of the executor of the estate, registration costs and actual probate court costs which will depend on the size of the estate. To find a better estimate of how much probating your grantor’s will may cost you, contact a Pittsburgh probate attorney.

How long will probate take in Pennsylvania?

The length of probate will also depend on the size of the estate. While probate in Pennsylvania is relatively shorter than in other states, there are several obstacles that may create additional delays including contests, assets that are hard to appraise and complex tax considerations.

Do I need a lawyer for probate?

Since probate is so dependent on the efficiency of the procedures, it is highly advised that you retain a Pittsburgh probate attorney to represent you through the process. This will ensure that the administrative actions are carried out properly and that your rights as a beneficiary of the will are protected and represented.

Do You Have More Questions About Probate?

At the Temple & Frayer Law Office, we understand that probate can be an extremely daunting task. We also understand that you have questions concerning your specific situation as it concerns probate and wills. Therefore, we would encourage you to contact a Pittsburgh estate planning lawyer from our firm to discuss your situation by calling 412-998-1197. We would take pleasure in assisting you as you take on probate.