When someone passes away, their belongings, property and debts need to be properly handled and distributed.
Known as “probate,” this legal process plays a role in ensuring the fair distribution of a deceased person’s assets.
Filing the petition
The first step in the Pennsylvania probate process is filing a petition with the local court. The estate’s executor, usually a person named in the will, files this petition. The court then validates the will, if there is one, and confirms the chosen executor, who is responsible for managing the probate process.
The executor needs to create an inventory of all the assets left behind by the deceased person. These can include properties, bank accounts, investments and personal belongings.
Notifying creditors and settling debts
Part of probate involves notifying creditors about the death, which gives them an opportunity to make claims for any debts owed to them by the deceased person. The executor reviews these claims and settles outstanding debts using the assets from the estate.
After the settlement of all debts in the estate, beneficiaries can receive the remaining assets. The distribution of assets follows the instructions in the will. According to a Gallup poll, only 46% of Americans have created a will, so if there is not a will, distribution occurs according to Pennsylvania law, which prioritizes spouses, children and other close family members.
Following the settling of debts and distribution of assets, the executor files a final accounting with the court. This accounting outlines all the financial transactions that took place during probate. If the court approves the accounting, an official closing of the estate can happen.