Understanding the steps to open a probate estate is essential

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2022 | Probate & Estate Planning |

If you’re opening a probate estate in Pennsylvania, understanding the steps to take should make it easier to complete. Getting this process done is a precursor to probate.

Locating and following the last will and testament

When a last will and testament has been made, it needs to be located and followed. Doing so provides a complete list of the decedent’s beneficiaries and wishes. If a will has not been created, an estate lawyer will determine who receives the decedent’s property under the Pennsylvania intestacy law.

Creating a complete list of the decedent’s assets and liabilities

Make a complete list of the decedent’s assets using bank and brokerage statements, stock certificates, life insurance policies, and corporate records. After it’s done, make a complete list of liabilities. These can include mortgages, property taxes, personal loans, utility bills, and credit card bills.

Meeting with an estate lawyer

After you’ve completed a list of the decedent’s assets and liabilities, you’ll need to meet with an estate lawyer. If the decedent didn’t create a last will and testament, the estate lawyer will examine their family tree to determine who should receive the decedent’s property under the Pennsylvania intestacy law.

Signing and opening a probate estate

The lawyer will assist you with drafting the documents to open a probate estate, which will give the executor the legal authority to gather the assets and pay off any debts. Many counties now have remote probate available.

Accessing the decedent’s financial accounts

When the probate process begins, the decedent’s executor or personal representative will work with the legal professional assisting with the probate process. They will obtain certified copies of letters of administration or letters of testamentary signed by the probate judge. Doing so is required to access the financial institutions where the decedent held his or her financial accounts, and is required to have the legal authority to sell the decedent’s real estate.

Understanding the steps required before the probate process begins will make it go more smoothly. Probate is not necessarily something to be avoided. It gives the executor and the estate attorney the authority to deal with the assets and debts, and gives finality to the eventual distribution.

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