Pittsburgh Estate Process Lawyer
While each estate is different, some parts of the Estate Administration process are common to all.
The Initial Meeting
The initial meeting should be scheduled as soon after the death as possible. I will provide advice, determine whether administration will be required, and explain what procedures will be involved. If there is a Will, it should be given to the attorney at the initial meeting.
Probate – Filing the Will – The process of filing the Will at the Register of Wills Office is referred to as “probate.” The person appointed to settle the estate is called an Executor or Administrator.
What if there is no Will? – The process of estate administration is similar, whether there is a Will or not. If there is no Will, the person appointed to settle the estate is called an Administrator, and is either the next-of-kin of the decedent or a party in interest to the decedent’s estate. The Executor or Administrator is authorized to assume control over the estate assets, use them to pay the bills and inheritance tax and, ultimately, to distribute any balance to the heirs.
Administration of the Estate – We will apply for a Federal Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service. This number must be used for all financial transactions for the estate, such as the opening of a bank account, the sale of real estate, and the filing of income tax returns. We, together with the Executor or Administrator, will open an estate bank account to receive liquidated assets and pay expenses. We place the required advertisements of the appointment of the Executor or Administrator. We assist with getting the contents of any safe deposit boxes examined by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. We will also send the required notices to beneficiaries and heirs.
Time Limits / Inventory – The Register of Wills requires an Inventory of all estate assets to be filed within three months of the date of death. We prepare the Inventory with the information given to us by the Executor or Administrator.
Time Limits / Inheritance Tax – Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax is imposed at different rates, depending on the relationship of the heir to the deceased person. Charities and spouses are not required to pay tax. When there is tax to be paid, it is paid by the estate before the property passes to heirs, unless a Will states otherwise. The Inheritance Tax must be paid within nine months of the date of death or interest and penalties may apply.
Completing the Administration – Once all debts and expenses are paid and state and federal inheritance tax returns (if applicable) are filed and approved, distribution of the assets can be made to the heirs in accordance with the Will (or by law in cases where there was no Will). When there is only one heir, this is usually done by signing a receipt for the value of the assets in the estate. In small families or where there are a limited number of heirs, estate settlement agreements are often used. In larger estates, an accounting filed with the Court may be necessary or desirable. Although a formal accounting is more costly and time consuming, the Executor is protected by a court order in making the distribution.