How Do I Settle An Estate After Death In Pennsylvania?
If you have a will, the will typically names an executor or an executrix, potentially multiple ones, to an estate. Attorney Tom McLaughlin does not encourage his clients to have numerous executors of an estate.
Once the estate owner passes away, the person designated as the executor would be in charge of the estate, whether or not they wanted to hire an estate attorney to help them. The executor would need to complete necessary paperwork, such as obtaining the original death certificate and the original will and take that paperwork to the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided or received their mail. The executor would then open an estate, which involves them being granted the Letter of Testamentary or Letter of Administration, depending on whether there’s a will in place.
The Letter of Testamentary or Letters of Administration give the executor specific abilities to act on behalf of the deceased. They might be able to cash out or transfer ownership of investment accounts, sell real estate, sell vehicles, transfer titles, and potentially could be able to operate a business (depending on the circumstances).
These situations are all what somebody with a short certificate granted to them by the County Register of Wills will be able to proceed and administer. Administering the estate at involves gathering and garnering all the assets the estate might include. It also involves finding out what obligations were in place at the time of death and what obligations occur and arise in administering the estate.
Assuming there’s sufficient money or assets in the estate that can satisfy all the obligations that the estate has, all this information must be recorded on an Inheritance Tax Return for the state of Pennsylvania. The tax document will be submitted to the Register of Wills in the county and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue through the executor. Then, the executor will wait until the state accepts the return as it’s filed and accepts the amount of taxes owed.
The only party in Pennsylvania that can escape paying estate taxes, for the most part, is the spouse. Children are taxed if they receive inheritance from their parents, and an unrelated third party is also taxed. The tax rate varies and increases the further the survivor is from the decedent, and in terms of heir and lineal relationship to the deceased.
How Long Do You Have To Settle An Estate In Pennsylvania?
“Settling” an estate, if filing the proper forms, can go on for years. Sometimes disagreements require a lengthy time frame, or other issues happen, such as you need to sell a house at the estate and can’t find a buyer. Maybe it’s a down market and you feel that, as the executor, it’s better to hold the property until you can sell it. So, until that is sold, you may be unable to pay the estate’s bills in full.
So, it may take quite some time to resolve an estate. There are certain forms that you must keep appraising the court about the estate administration’s status. There is a rule that if you pay the tax in a certain amount of time, right after death, you can pay the taxes at a slight discount. If you go past a certain amount of time past the date of death for any reason, the Department of Revenue will typically charge interest on the taxes owed.
What Is Probate?
When a person dies, they leave behind their assets, such as property, money, and other valuable possessions. Probate ensures that these assets are distributed according to the person’s wishes or the applicable laws. Think of probate as a sort of referee or supervisor regulating the transfer of these assets. Probate’s primary aim is to ensure all proceedings are conducted with fairness and comply with the law.
During probate, the court examines the person’s will, if they have one. A will is a document that states how the person wants their assets to be distributed. In cases where no will exists, the court applies specific guidelines known as “intestate succession” to determine the rightful recipients of the assets.
Probate also involves settling any debts or financial obligations the person had at the time of death. This means that any outstanding bills, loans, or taxes are paid from the person’s assets before the remaining assets are distributed to their beneficiaries.
The length of the probate process can vary significantly, influenced by factors such as the intricacy of the estate and any potential conflicts that may arise. It involves paperwork, court hearings, and other legal formalities. Once everything is sorted out, the court gives its approval, and the assets are distributed to the rightful beneficiaries.
What Is Dying Intestate, Or Without A Will?
Dying without a will is to die intestate. Think of a will as a special document that someone writes to state who should receive their belongings after they are gone. Unfortunately, people sometimes do not write a will at all or die before they can complete one they had started.
When someone dies intestate, specific laws come into play to decide what happens to their things. The government legislated these laws intending to ensure the person’s assets go to their family members in a fair way. Typically, the law says that the person’s family, typically in the order of their spouse, children, parents, and then other close relatives, is to inherit their belongings.
Since there’s no will to follow in these cases, the court appoints an administrator to manage the person’s assets. This person’s job is to act on behalf of the deceased by distributing belongings according to the rules and taking care of any debts or bills that need to be paid.
Navigating dying intestate and probate are difficult to manage due to the emotionally challenging time with countless legal distractions. As such, it is worth considering partnering with a lawyer to properly mourn and prevent possible divisions from arising within your family.
Who Can Serve As An Administrator Of An Estate In Pennsylvania?
When someone passes away in Pennsylvania without a will, or their will does not name an executor, the court appoints an administrator to handle the estate. The designated individual is tasked with overseeing and distributing the individual’s assets in accordance with relevant Pennsylvania law.
Generally, the law orders the level of priority in which certain individuals serve as administrators of an estate. The first choice is typically the surviving spouse of the deceased person. If there is no surviving spouse or the spouse is unable or unwilling to serve, the next in line are the adult children of the deceased. If they do not have any surviving adult children, other close relatives, such as parents or siblings, may be eligible to serve as administrators.
If no immediate family member is available or willing to serve as an administrator, the court may appoint a competent person or a financial institution as the administrator. It is important to note that the court’s decision on who can serve as an administrator is based on what is considered in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries.
What Is The Difference Between An Executor And An Administrator?
Executors and administrators are both responsible for managing someone’s estate after they pass away, but the main difference lies in how they are appointed and the circumstances under which they serve.
An executor is chosen by the deceased person. The deceased individual names the executor in their will and outlines their wishes for their assets. The primary duty of the executor is to fulfill the instructions and desires outlined in the will. Their responsibilities include gathering the assets, resolving any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the instructions outlined in the will.
On the other hand, an administrator is not chosen by the deceased individual. Instead, they are appointed by the court. The administrator’s role is similar to that of an executor: to manage an estate. They gather assets, pay off debts, and distribute assets to the rightful beneficiaries as necessary to fulfill this responsibility. However, instead of following the deceased person’s specific instructions in a will, the administrator follows the laws of the jurisdiction to distribute the assets.
In summary, the key distinction is that an executor is designated by the deceased individual in their will, whereas an administrator is appointed by the court in cases where there is no will or named executor. Both roles involve managing the estate and ensuring the assets are distributed correctly, but the source of authority and decision-making stems from either the deceased person’s will or the laws of the jurisdiction.