The probate process is notorious for many reasons. It can cost a lot of money for surviving family members and take years to resolve. Fortunately, not everyone needs to go through the traditional process of probate in Pennsylvania. Many smaller estates qualify for the simplified version of the probate process, which can save the decedent’s loved ones time and money.
Does my estate qualify as a ‘smaller estate under Pennsylvania law?
Under Section 3102 of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates, and Fiduciaries Code, the value of the assets of the decedent’s estate (not counting real estate, amounts used for funeral expenses, etc.) must be $50,000 or less to be able to use the Small Estates Petition to settle the estate.
Filing a Small Estates Affidavit
If an estate qualifies as a ‘small estate’ under Pennsylvania law, it will qualify for a simplified probate procedure, known as ‘summary probate.’ The executor of the estate will then file a Small Estates Petition or Affidavit with the court located where the decedent lived at the time of their death. The petition must include:
- The names and addresses of the petitioners and their relationships to the decedent
- The decedent’s name and date of death, as well as residence at the time of death
- A list of the decedent’s personal assets and value of each item
- A list of unpaid taxes and other unpaid debts and expenses
- A list of all beneficiaries listed in decedent’s will
- A respective proposed distribution
What happens next?
Once your affidavit has been filed, the small estate probate process will take place. Once the process is complete, the decedent’s personal property will be distributed in accordance with the decedent’s will or the state laws of intestacy.
When should I not file a small estate affidavit?
While a simplified probate process can be tempting, it is not suitable for all situations. For example, simplified probate may not be meant for situations involving a contested will, minor or disabled beneficiaries, or unknown estate assets.
It can be difficult to manage the estate of a deceased person without the guidance of an estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help determine whether you should file for simplified probate process.