Starting the Probate Process
Your loved one has died and you’ve been named executor of the estate or you’re a potential beneficiary of the estate. You’ve identified the assets owned by the deceased and have concluded that the estate must be settled through the probate courts. So what’s next?
The Probate Process in Pennsylvania
To initiate the probate process, the executor must file a copy of the will with the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided at the time of death. The executor also files a “petition for probate,” which officially opens the probate process. The probate court will then issue what are known as “letters testamentary,” which give the executor the legal authority to prepare an inventory or accounting of the assets owned by the decedent and to gather all estate assets. The inventory must be filed with the court within nine months of the date of appointment of an executor.
Notice that the estate has been submitted to the probate court must be published in a newspaper in the community where the deceased resided. Creditors must file a claim against the estate within one year of the date of publication of the notice.
Establishing the Validity of the Will
Before any action can be taken to distribute assets or follow other instructions included in the will, the validity of the will must be proven. Many wills in Pennsylvania are “self-proving.” That means they come with signed and notarized documents from witnesses attesting to their validity—i.e., that the signing of the will was witnessed and that the person executing the will was of sound mind. If the will isn’t self-proving, the executor will need sworn statements from witnesses attesting to the validity of the will.
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we have fought for the rights of individuals throughout Delaware County since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online