Probate, a legal process following a person’s death, validates their will, appraises their assets and pays debts and taxes. In Pennsylvania, as with all states, probate is a multi-stage and complex process. Its duration can vary significantly depending on various factors.
Understanding what the probate process entails can help beneficiaries prepare for the wait and grasp the steps involved. However, predicting the exact length of probate without knowing the specifics of the estate and potential complexities is challenging.
Filing the will
Probate starts when the executor named in the will or a court-appointed individual if the will is absent, files the document with the Register of Wills in the county where the deceased resided. This filing typically occurs within weeks of the death.
Inventory and appraisal of the estate
Next one must take inventory of the deceased’s assets and appraise them. This stage can consume a lot of time, especially if the deceased owned extensive or complicated assets. The completion of this stage can take several months.
Paying debts and taxes
Before distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, all debts and taxes require payment. In Pennsylvania, the executor can pay any inheritance tax without penalty within one year from the date of death.
Distribution of the estate
After paying the debts and taxes, the remaining assets can go to the beneficiaries as stated in the will. If the will is absent, Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws dictate the distribution of assets.
For a straightforward case, where no disputes exist and the estate is not complex, probate in Pennsylvania can conclude within approximately 9 to 12 months. However, complications like a dispute over the will or the discovery of additional assets can extend the process to several years.