Comprehensive Elder Law Services Addressing a Full Range of Legal Issues

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Integrity And Professionalism In Probate And Estate Administration

If you have been named an executor in a will, you may not know what is involved with your new job. Would you like to speak with a lawyer regarding the probate of a will or the handling of an estate administration matter for a family member who has passed away? Please contact Sikov and Love, P.A., to arrange your consultation.

Since our firm’s founding in 1952, we have set a standard for quality legal services across the Pittsburgh metro. Additionally, Carol Sikov Gross is one of western Pennsylvania’s few Certified Elder Law Attorneys.

We assist clients in probate and estate administration matters in Orphans’ Court following the death of a loved one.

How Does Estate Administration Work In Pennsylvania?

As an executor, you are often responsible for effectively distributing assets in the testator’s estate. The process can involve a lot of moving parts. Here is a breakdown of each step you’ll need to follow:

  1. Review the will: If the testator included a will in their estate, reviewing it can tell you which assets will go to which beneficiaries. You can typically find their will in your local probate court after the testator dies. Suppose the testator didn’t have a will. In that case, you can review Pennsylvania’s intestate laws to determine how your loved one’s assets will get distributed.
  2.  Determine if you need to challenge the will: Sometimes, you may believe that your loved one’s will isn’t valid, either because you believe portions of it were created under duress or that they were not sound of mind when it was drafted. If you or other beneficiaries have these suspicions, you can challenge the will in probate court with the help of an experienced Pittsburgh probate attorney. If not, you can move on to step three.
  3. Pay off any debts or taxes on the estate: As an executor, you can approach this in several ways. First, you can pay off all debts and taxes upfront before distributing any assets to beneficiaries. You can also distribute the assets to heirs and have them pay off their portion of the debts and taxes on the assets they obtained. Figuring out which option is best for you and the beneficiaries can take time and effort. Our Pennsylvania probate and estate administration attorneys can help you determine the appropriate option based on your circumstances.

You have a lot of responsibility as an executor. Following these steps can help you keep everything organized and ease the estate administration process. To learn more about how we can help, call our Pittsburgh office at 412-567-1236.

How To Respond If Someone Challenges A Will

During the estate administration process, you may find that a beneficiary wants to challenge a will. If that’s the case, here’s how you can handle the situation:

  1. Clarify why they’re challenging the will: There can be many reasons. For example, beneficiaries may believe portions of the will aren’t valid or suspect a level of fraud or forgery involved in the estate’s distribution. Clarifying why they’re challenging the will can help you effectively respond.
  2. Seek legal help: When responding to these challenges, seeking help from a trusted legal professional is crucial. We have handled numerous will challenges and can help you figure out how to maneuver this difficult and emotionally contentious situation.
  3. Respond to the claim: Once you retain counsel, you can effectively respond and start building your case. Your attorney can help you thoroughly review estate documents and speak with witnesses to build a sound and compelling case.

It’s not easy being an executor and challenges to a testator’s will can add a lot of stress to your job. Call us at 412-567-1236 to learn how we can help you.

Representation In Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court

Many executors or administrators of estates may not understand the probate or estate administration process. Our firm can help you with these tasks and ensure that your duties and responsibilities are fulfilled well and promptly. These duties include collecting the estate’s assets, paying debts, paying taxes, preparing appropriate legal documents and distributing property to help the heirs.

Our proximity to the Orphans’ Court and the Register of Wills offices in West Chester, which handle probate and estate administration matters, allows us to provide our clients with easy access and efficient service.

Representation In Contested Pennsylvania Estate And Probate Matters

There are a variety of probate or estate matters that may require representation in court or litigation. These matters include a contested will, an issue about trust, the alleged abuse by the executor or administrator of the estate, or the failure of anyone to open an estate for a deceased individual when there are assets in that individual’s name. Our skilled estate litigation attorneys are ready to represent you, as plaintiff or defendant, in these or any related disputes.

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Probate And Estate Administration And Litigation

Below, we’ve answered questions commonly asked by prospective clients.

How can I use wills and trusts to avoid probate or greatly simplify probate?

A will provides instructions on how your assets should be distributed after you pass away. The will must go through probate, but if it is well written and thorough, it will be less likely to raise questions, concerns or to inspire disputes – all of which can add time and complexity to probate.

By contrast, assets placed in a trust can often bypass the probate process entirely. Living trusts, in particular, are a strategic way to take property out of your estate while continuing to retain control of it during your lifetime. After you pass away, the assets will be distributed according to the terms of the trust.

What is a common misconception about probate?

One common misconception is that probate is always going to be time-consuming and expensive. While it can be complex, the duration and cost depend on various factors like the size of the estate and whether there are any disputes.

What types of legal disputes commonly arise during the probate and estate administration process?

Some common disputes include:

  • Disagreements over the interpretation of a will or trust
  • Challenges to the validity of a will (often on grounds of undue influence, lack of capacity, or improper execution)
  • Disputes among beneficiaries about asset distribution,
  • Conflicts regarding the actions of the executor or administrator of the estate.

These disputes can be complex and emotionally charged, making it beneficial to have legal guidance during the process.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to help with my duties as executor?

While you’re not legally required to hire a lawyer to assist with your duties as an executor, many people would consider it a practical necessity. The responsibilities involved, such as filing court papers, managing and distributing assets, and paying taxes, can be complicated. A skilled Pittsburgh probate lawyer can help you fulfill your duties correctly and protect you from personal liability for any mistakes made during the administration of the estate.

If disputes do arise, your lawyer will already be familiar with the details of the estate and up to speed on the case.

Contact Us Today To Discuss Your Legal Needs

At Sikov and Love, P.A., we strive to meet the needs of our clients compassionately and efficiently. We have significant experience in dealing with our clients’ various probate and estate administration issues. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with probate and estate administration in the Pittsburgh metro. To request an initial consultation, just call 412-567-1236 or reach out online.