After a person passes away, the matter of what happens to their estate can depend on a variety of factors. Typically, their estate will become subject to the probate process, regardless of whether they left behind a will. In probate court, the primary issues being resolved regarding the estate of the deceased are the payments of any estate taxes and remaining debts, as well as the transferral of assets to the specified beneficiaries. While the court supervises the process, the distribution of the estate is usually handled by a personal representative chosen by the deceased, often referred to as the executor. However, if an executor was not named by the person before their passing, the court will appoint a spouse or relative for the role which is referred to as the administrator. For more questions about what to expect from probate court and how to avoid any potential legal hurdles, please reach out to the Butler County probate attorneys at Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, LLC.
What are the pros and cons of probate court?
Probate courts can offer strong procedural protections from potential complications that may arise regarding the transferral of assets from the deceased’s estate. For example, if the deceased did not leave behind a valid will, probate court can help determine the distribution of assets based on Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Typically, these laws make sure that the assets of the deceased are received by direct family members like spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The probate process can also ensure that the correct will is used when it comes to the handling of their estate. If an older version of the will that was not properly updated is presented in court, probate will make sure that only the most recent will is followed.
However, despite the benefits that probate court can provide, there are also many downsides to it that lead many to want to avoid the process altogether. For example, perhaps the most prominent issue with probate is that it can be very detrimental when it comes to time and expenses. Waiting periods can range between 30 to 90 days, which is designed to give certain parties time to contest the will. If the will is contested by any party, whether it be creditors or disinherited heirs, it can prolong the process even more and may lead to the beneficiaries losing assets they were initially entitled to.
Can I avoid probate?
Not all estates must go through standard probate; small estates could be subject to a simplified probate which would allow beneficiaries to avoid some of the problems of normal proceedings. Although, only estates with a total value of $50,000 or less in assets can qualify for this procedure. It is also important to know that certain types of trust funds can be useful tools to avoid probate court. Regardless of the route you may take when it comes to the handling of your assets after you pass, having a skilled estate planning attorney working on your behalf is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out.