Probate is the process of validating the will of a decedent (the deceased person). Probate ensures that the estate is distributed in compliance with the deceased’s wishes, or if there is no will or trust, then according to state law.
The probate process settles the estate of the decedent even if the will is lost or if there is no will. Probate oversees the process of the disbursement of the estate after someone dies. This process includes making sure that beneficiaries receive what they are due, in accordance with the will, or with state law, that outstanding debts are settled and taxes from the estate are paid. Probate is also the process through which it is determined that the will is valid and any will contests are resolved.
In general, clients want to avoid the court supervised probate process or to minimize the estates involvement in the process. However, unlike many states, the probate process in Pennsylvania is inexpensive and can, in large part, be waived by agreement or the executor and heirs.
The probate process in Pennsylvania varies greatly from estate to estate. It can take as little as several months to several years. There are many factors that affect the time it takes to go through probate. One factor is the experience of the Executor/Administrator and their legal counsel. The beneficiaries are also a factor in the time probate will take as is the asset max of the estate. The probate process is rarely impacted by probate court requirements which if all other factors are favorable can be accomplished in a timely manner. Here are some common causes for a delay in the estate administration process:
1. If Beneficiaries and or family members are not getting along with each other or the Executor probate can take longer. Family issues can be very difficult to resolve.
2. If someone contests the will probate can take as long as it takes to settle the contest.
3. All creditors to whom the decedent owed money are given a set timescale to file claims against the estate, which can take several months. Until this deadline nothing can be done in the probate process.
4. If the estate contains hard to value assets like closely held business interests or vacant land probate can take longer.
5. If there are difficult to sell assets such as real estate or business assets the probate process can be delayed.
6. If there are complex estate tax and inheritance tax considerations probate can take longer.
By clicking here you can review probate requirements for Chester County Pennsylvania at the Chester County Register of Wills Website.
David M. Frees III Esq.
Thanks to Douglas L. Kaune, Esquire and Whitney O'Reilly Law Clerk and Assistant Client Relations Manager who prepared this article.