What does probate mean?
Probate is the legal process by which a person’s will, upon their death, is submitted to the Register of Wills/Orphans’ Court so that the heirs can legally obtain their inheritance under the terms of the will.
Are all wills open to the public?
Unless prohibited by a court order to the contrary, all wills (once submitted) are a matter of public record and can be viewed.
Why is a will registered or probated?
This is necessary so the person named as Executor/Executrix of the will can be legally appointed as the estate representative. This step ensures that person is empowered to help administer the estate and, for example, talk to insurance companies, financial institutions or creditors on behalf of the estate.
What does “intestate” mean?
Intestate means the deceased person had no valid will at the time of their death.
What is a short certificate?
A short certificate is a legal document issued by the Register of Wills which evidences an estate has been opened, the name of the estate’s legal representative, and other pertinent information regarding the estate, as well as the Seal of the Register of Wills. This document can be used as proof of the Executor’s authority to act on behalf of the estate.
When does a will get registered and filed?
Generally speaking, the will is filed along with the Petition for Letters Testamentary or Administration when one takes the will to the Register of Wills to have the person named in the Will as Executor sworn in as the Estate’s legal representative.
Why do you keep the original will?
The Register of Wills is required by law to keep the original will when the estate is opened.
What are Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration?
Letters Testamentary is a legal document issued by the Register of Wills which gives legal authority to the Executor to act on behalf of the Estate once a will has been submitted and the Executor sworn in. Letters of Administration give the same type of authority to an estate representative, termed an Administrator, yet are used when there is no will.
Who can be appointed administrator?
Generally speaking, anyone of legal age and who has the capacity to serve as an Estate Administrator can be appointed. In most cases, a family member or relative of the decedent undertakes the responsibility.
What is needed to open an estate?
Typically, one has to have the decedent’s death certificate, original will, and Petition for Letters Testamentary (if there is a will) or Petition for Letters of Administration (if there is no will). Each county has certain fees which need to be paid in conjunction with opening up an estate and there is also the requirement that an estate be advertised in the newspaper, as well as the county legal journal (if one exists).
What is an Inheritance Tax Return?
The Inheritance Tax Return, also known as the REV-1500, is a form required by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to be submitted to find out the applicable tax owed on the decedent’s estate. Generally due within nine months from the decedent’s date of death, it shows the department a snapshot of all the assets and their values owned by the decedent at the time of death; it also identifies the estate heirs. The applicable inheritance tax rate depends upon how an heir is related to the decedent. For example, if a spouse inherits, there is a 0% tax rate; a lineal descendant (son or daughter) has a 4.5% tax rate; a sibling has a 12% tax rate; everybody else has a 15% tax rate.
How long does the probate process take?
This depends upon a number of factors, including family dynamics, but generally speaking it takes about a year to a year-and-a-half from the decedent’s death to finalize an estate.
What is guardianship?
Guardianship is the legal process by which one can be appointed to handle the financial and/or medical affairs of another due to his or her incapacity. The process requires a court order so a hearing before a judge is necessary. Upon a judicial finding that a guardianship is necessary, a court order appoints a family member or neutral third party to act as guardian of the incapacitated person. Certain duties go along with being a guardian, one of which is the filing of a yearly report with the Orphans’ Court showing how the guardian handled the finances or assets of the incapacitated person.