The term probate describes the process of distributing the assets of an estate after a person dies. If the person has a will, the court supervises the transfer of property to stated beneficiaries. When no will exists, Pennsylvania probate law determines asset distribution.

Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of probate in the state.

The basic probate process

When you create a will, you can name a personal representative who will administer your estate after you die. Otherwise, the court will appoint a representative to act on your behalf. This individual will:

  • Gather all the assets held by your estate
  • Pay your outstanding debts, attorney fees, funeral costs and medical bills
  • Transfer remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries as outlined in your will

The process starts when your executor files the will, information sheet and petition for probate in the county where you lived.

Estates requiring probate

Pennsylvania requires probate only when the estate value exceeds $50,000, exclusive of funeral expenses and real estate. If you have a sizable estate, you can ease the probate process by appointing an executor and designating beneficiaries for your assets in your will.

Help your personal representative prepare for probate by carefully organizing documents as you plan your estate. Provide him or her copies of your will, deeds of properties you own, professional appraisal documents for assets such as artwork or collections, copies of statements for your bank and investment accounts, income tax returns and the names and updated contact information for all benefactors named in your will.

When you do not have a will in place at the time of death, the court will pay your debts and divide your estate. Assets will go first to your surviving spouse if applicable, surviving children, creditors, other family members and other beneficiaries as the judge sees fit. Retain control over your estate and obtain peace of mind with careful estate planning.