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estates Archives

Formal Probate Administration

Formal administration involves handling the entire process through the courts. After the short certificate, the executor or administrator needs to notify all possible beneficiaries. They will also need to notify all possible debtors by publishing notice in the local law reporter as well as a local newspaper of general circulation. The executor or administrator should also notify social security, employer(s), banks, insurance companies, retirement plans, etc. regarding the death of the decedent.

Start of Probate Process without a Will

If a loved one has passed away without a will, the laws of intestacy will govern how their estate is handled. The closest kin can apply to the Register of Wills to be designated as the administrator of the estate. They will also be granted a short certificate has proof of their authority to handle the estate.

Start of Probate Process with a Will

After a loved one has passed, one of the first steps to be taken is to determine if they have a will. If so, you will want to locate the original will and make sure it has been properly signed. Ideally, the will has a self-proving affidavit so that the witnesses to the will do not need to be present when the will goes to probate. If there is not a self-proving affidavit, someone with knowledge of the deceased's signature would need to verify the signature. In some counties this must be done in person. The named executor will need to go to the Register of Wills with the original will, photo identification, and some method of payment to open the estate.

Guardian of Estate of a Minor

Minors may not be able to receive assets left to them due to their age. In that scenario, a guardian for the estate of the minor must be appointed. A parent cannot be the sole guardian of a minor's estate. A co-guardian must be named or a corporate fiduciary alongside the parent. If the appointment of a guardian is not contested, this can be accomplished without a hearing in Bucks County. An inventory of the minor's estate must be provided to the court however yearly reports are not necessary. Additionally, the guardian or co-guardians must post bond based on the value of the estate coming into their control unless the court feels it is unnecessary. Corporate fiduciaries are exempt from the bond requirement. Disbursements may be made for the minor's support and education as deemed reasonable by the guardian without further court order. 

Wills For Heroes - May 14, 2016

Bucks County has a "Wills for Heroes" event this upcoming Saturday, May 14, 2016. This is a program in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Bar Association that provides free wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders and their spouses/significant others. Proof of military or public service affiliation is required. Appointments are required and can be made on the Pennsylvania Bar Association website. Each appointment is for one hour. At the conclusion of the appointment, each participant will have their final, notarized documents to take home with them. If a spouse or significant other is also participating, their appointment will be immediately following that of the first responder. The program is made possible through the time of volunteers including attorneys, reviewers and witnesses.

Estate Accounting

One of the most important duties of the executor or administrator is keeping an accurate accounting of the estate assets. Prior to distribution, an executor should prepare an accounting of all of the assets and liabilities of the estate, including all sources of assets (i.e. bank accounts, refunds, sale of real estate) and all liabilities paid and still outstanding (i.e. funeral costs, unpaid credit cards, medical bills).

Do you need a will?

Do you need a will? Most people don't think so, or don't get around to it. While an estate can proceed without a will, i.e. by intestacy, a will can resolve many problems.

Inheritance Tax

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that requires a tax paid on inheritances. There is also a federal estate tax, but your estate is exempt as long as your estate is valued at less than $5,450,000 for 2016. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has no minimum threshold.

Opening an estate

In order to open an estate, you must go to the courthouse located in the county where the decedent was residing when he or she passed away.

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