Why is it Important to Understand or Learn Probate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

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Bellomo & Associates

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Posted on

Jun 16, 2023

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Pennsylvania - South Central PA

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This is a question that we receive all of the time in our office. The answer is that you could have personal liability as an executor because there may be ways to avoid probate if you understand it and plan ahead.

Probate is merely the Commonwealth’s rule book and the process that you must go through if there is an asset in a person’s sole name at the time of their death. This excludes jointly held accounts and accounts with a beneficiary designation on the account. Probate is not good or bad. It is simply the process the Commonwealth requires us to follow in order to properly distribute assets to beneficiaries.

A personal representative, also known as an executor (or executrix if they are female), if they are named in a Will, or an administrator if they are taking authority under the intestate succession under the statute, is personally liable to the beneficiaries and to the government to properly administer the estate, make certain all debts and expenses of the decedent are paid, pay all inheritance tax and other taxes owed and to distribute the remainder of the assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the Will or the intestate statute. A personal representative must understand the entire process and all of the legal requirements that the Commonwealth imposes, such as notices to heirs, notices to creditors, advertising of the appointment of a personal representative and filing with the Orphans’ Court, Register of Wills certifications and notices as items are completed or when the estate is complete. There is also a requirement for a Pennsylvania inheritance tax to be prepared and filed and, in some cases, a fiduciary income tax return as well. If any of these steps are not properly completed and a beneficiary, a government entity, or a charity receives less money than what they were entitled to there can and will be personal liability imputed on the personal representative.

It is essential to understand this liability to make a decision as to whether to hire an attorney to assist in the process. There is very little upside to not hiring a professional but a lot of potential downsides to not doing so, and therefore, typically, it is a much smarter decision to engage an attorney to assist you.

Probate can be avoided by either making an asset jointly owned or designating a beneficiary for that asset. However, before somebody makes an asset jointly owned or designates a beneficiary for an asset they should understand the legal implications of doing so as there may be considerations beyond probate in doing so. Remember jointly owned assets or assets with designated beneficiaries don’t avoid inheritance tax, only probate is avoided.

If you have any questions concerning probate or whether you need to probate please call the office at (717) 844-9218 or visit our website at www.bellomoassociates.com

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Bellomo & Associates

Estate Planning 3198 E Market St, York, Pennsylvania, 17402

We Educate so what happened to the Bellomo Family doesn't happen to yours!Our firms mission is to ensure that you and your family never needlessly, painfully suffer. Every team member has a personal story that has brought us here to advocate for you and your family. We want to replace your burden with peace of mind. We have the answers, but more important, we have your back.Bellomo & Associates, LLC advises Individuals and families, business owners, senior citizens, and their families about the estate planning and elder law challenges facing them today. For seniors and their families facing the issues of aging, or for those of any age who wish to protect their familys financial future, we counsel clients and provide solutions on Asset Protection; Specials Needs Trusts; Wills; Trust Design; Medicaid; Estate Planning; Nursing Home Matters; and Estate Administration. For our clients who own businesses, our team assists them with succession planning for their business in conjunction with their estate planning.  We have office locations in York, PA, and Lancaster, PA.We offer FREE workshops!  Our workshops are fun and entertaining ways to learn! We provide you with the information to decide what is right for you. If after attending, you decide we arent the right fit no problem! Youll never feel any pressure from our team.