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Probate & Estate Administration

With or Without Will

Handling & Settling Decedents' Estates in

Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh &

Montgomery Counties  - As Both a Lawyer & Real

Estate Broker, Attorney Joe Adams Can Bring Added

Value to the Estate Administration Process

Probate in Pennsylvania, the estate administration process and estate settlement can be both a complex and stressful experience for those unfamiliar.  There are many responsibilities and court rules to follow when it comes probating a will and settling an estate in Pennsylvania, and in most cases it is advisable to use the services of an estate attorney.  Strict adherence to various timelines is required when closing an estate.  Pennsylvania probate law is primarily governed by the “Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code” (otherwise known as the PEF Code found at Title 20 Pa.C.S. § 101, et seq.) along with state and local of Rules of Court.  The probate of a decedent’s last will and testament and the estate administration process starts with the filing of a petition with the Register of Wills of the county in which the decedent had his or her last family or principal residence. If the decedent died with a last will and testament, the executor of the will  or the executrix of the will files a petition for Letters Testamentary so that he or she may be authorized and empowered to begin administering the estate after the will has been probated. If the decedent died intestate (meaning without a will), a petition for Letters of Administration can be filed by someone entitled to benefit under the decedent’s estate.  Generally speaking, this can include a relative, surviving spouse or even a creditor of the decedent.  If the petition is granted, the person is appointed as an administrator of the estate – or an administratrix of the estate – and is authorized and empowered to administer the estate just as an executor or executrix would be in the case of a last will and testament.  One of the main differences between the two scenarios is that, in the case of a last will and testament, distribution of estate assets is dictated by the terms of the will; whereas, in the case of intestacy, distribution of estate assets is dictated by state law.

Once Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration have been issued by the Register of Wills, a series of important responsibilities and timelines ensue which include, but are not limited to, the following: advertising the estate with a notice to creditors, providing required beneficiary notices, providing notice to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section (if necessary in the case of bequests made to charitable beneficiaries), procuring the estate tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), opening an estate checking account, complying with statutory requirements relating to any DPW obligations, locating and securing all estate assets, safeguarding the property of the decedent, liquidating assets as necessary, paying the decedent’s outstanding debts (to the extent such debts are just, valid and/or enforceable), procuring date of death valuations, procuring necessary appraisals, dealing with the disposition of any real estate, dealing with any claims brought against the estate, making claims on behalf of the estate as appropriate, preparing and filing the Inventory with the Register of Wills, preparing and filing the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return (Form REV-1500) , preparing and filing state and federal tax returns as necessary, paying required taxes, funding any testamentary trusts, coordinating with professionals as necessary, preparing the final account, preparing release and settlement documents, handling court filings as appropriate and/or required, appearing in court to the extent necessary and making distributions.

For their part, an executor/executrix or administrator/administratrix is entitled to be paid a commission for their service to the estate and is permitted to retain legal counsel to represent them throughout the probate process or estate administration process. Both the commission and attorney’s fee are classified as administrative expenses and are typically paid out of the assets of the estate.

The Law Office of Joseph M. Adams can assist you throughout the entire estate administration and probate process.  

Do I Need an Attorney to Administer an Estate?

 

Technically, the answer is “No”, however, the better question is, “Should I Get an Attorney?”  The answer to that question is, “Yes”.  In fact, many Registers of Wills highly recommend that you engage an attorney given the complexity of the estate administration process.  If you do not have legal experience, the responsibilities and tasks associated with administering an estate can be overwhelming.  When the administration of an estate is not properly handled, an executor, executrix, administrator or administratrix can be held personally liable for acting or failing to act appropriately. An experienced attorney can assist you with the administration process, help protect you from liability, explain your legal duties and responsibilities and make the process an easier experience.  In addition to handling the normal estate administration process, an experienced attorney can also assist you with handling unexpected developments, including such things as defending the estate from questionable claims and creditors, dealing with challenges to the validity of a will, pursuing rightful claims on behalf of the estate, dealing with real estate and title issues, etc.  Further, the attorney’s fee is typically paid directly from the assets of the estate and is considered a tax deductible administrative expense.

 

 

Do I Have to Use the Lawyer Who Drafted the Will?

 

No, you are free to use a lawyer of your own choosing.

 

What About Costs and Attorney Fees

The law allows that an executor/executrix or administrator/administratrix be permitted to hire legal counsel to represent them during the estate administration process.  Attorney’s fees as well as the costs expended in connection with the administration of the estate are considered appropriate administrative expenses and are properly paid out of the assets of the estate.  They are also tax deductible.

 

The law allows that an executor/executrix or administrator/administratrix be permitted to hire legal counsel to represent them during the estate administration process.  Attorney’s fees as well as the costs expended in connection with the administration of the estate are considered appropriate administrative expenses and are properly paid out of the assets of the estate.  They are also tax deductible. 

 

 

For more information, contact Attorney Joe Adams at 215-996-9977.

lawyer for probate & estate adminstration in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Philadelphia County
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