Whether you are hoping to minimize the stress your loved ones experience after you pass or you have lost a loved one recently, it is important to understand the basics of the probate process. This process is designed to ensure that an estate is distributed fairly and

The basics of the probate process

The probate process in Pennsylvania has a few basic steps. Once the court has either granted permission to the personal representative listed in a will or has named an executor, they will then go through three steps:

  1. Gather the assets that will go through the probate process
  2. Pay off any debts
  3. Distribute the remaining assets

For those who have left a valid will, their assets will be distributed according to their wishes as laid out in their will. If someone dies without a will — also referred to as dying intestate — Pennsylvania law will define both the probate process and how their property is distributed to their surviving family.

The probate process is streamlined for smaller estates.

Estates valued at less than $50,000 can go through a simplified probate process that is less costly and takes less time. This process requires the account executor to file a request to use the simplified process.

What assets will not go through probate?

Even if the estate itself goes through probate, some individual assets may not go through this process. These can include:

  • Life insurance payments to a listed beneficiary
  • Property owned jointly with another person
  • Bank accounts that have designated beneficiaries or payable-on-death process
  • Assets that were placed in a living trust

In addition, some assets can be protected from the probate process through estate planning documents like a pour-over will and accompanying trusts.

The probate process can be stressful for an already grieving family, and navigating the particulars of this process can be complex. If you have recently lost someone, the guidance of an experienced attorney can help you navigate this process with confidence and find a fair solution for your loved one’s estate. If you are planning your estate, on the other hand, an attorney can help you explore your options and create a plan that protects both your family and your peace of mind.