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What is the Probate and Estate Administration process?

Probate and estate administration after a loved one passes away may not be fun for Pittsburgh residents; however, for those who take the time to make an estate plan and have a Will prepared, it will be easier for the people left behind. When a person dies with Will and assets in his or her name, the Will is offered for probate at the Register of Wills office. The Will should name an Executor, who is the person that will handle probate and estate administration. Although you have named someone to handle this important job, you may not fully understand what is involved.

What is the probate and estate administration process? The purpose of probate is to file the Will of record, which will help to ensure that the wishes of the decedent regarding the transfer of his or her property are followed. The property of the decedent is collected, debts, expenses and taxes are paid from the estate and remaining property is distributed pursuant to the terms of the Will.

The probate and estate administration process is supervised by the Register of Wills and the Orphans' Court. Property subject to probate are those assets that do not pass to others by beneficiary or transfer on death designation or by joint ownership at the time of death.

The first step after the Will is probated at the Register of Wills is for the Executor to collect the probate property of the decedent. Next, all debts, expenses and taxes owed by the estate must be paid. Then, any disputes settled, whether these are disputes with creditors or family members. Finally, distribution of the remaining property to the heirs will occur.

While many people seek to "avoid probate" when making an estate plan, the probate and estate administration process in Pennsylvania is a well-developed and efficient system designed to protect the wishes of the decedent and his or her loved ones. Those unsure of this process or having difficulty with it should work with an elder law attorney to help them carry out the decedent's wishes.

Source: Findlaw.com, "The Probate Basics," accessed Dec. 29, 2016

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