Estate Information

Please note: This information has been issued to inform and not to advise. It is based on Pennsylvania Law. The statements are general, and individual facts in a given case may alter their application or involve other laws not referred to here.

WHAT IS ESTATE ADMINISTRATION?

When an individual has died, it is often necessary to follow formal procedures in settling the estate. This process is called Estate Administration. Requirements are established by state and federal laws, which must be followed. Administration includes procedures and requirements relating to collecting of assets, satisfying of obligations such as debts, expenses and taxes, and distributing property to the heirs and beneficiaries.

WHO ADMINISTERS AN ESTATE?

A personal representative is the individual charged with administration of an estate. If an individual has executed a will during his or her lifetime, the will should designate the personal representative, who is called an Executor. If the deceased person did not have a Will, an Administrator will be appointed to handle the estate. Law establishes the individuals entitled to administer an estate.

WHAT DOES A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE DO?

An executor or administrator must obtain the necessary legal documents to enable him or her to act for the estate. These documents, called either Letters Testamentary (executor), or Letters of Administration (administrator), are obtained through the Register of Wills in the county in which the deceased person lived at the time of death.

The duties of the personal representative include:

  • Finding the will and having it probated
  • Locating and protecting the assets of the estate
  • Finding and notifying the heirs
  • Paying debts, expenses, taxes of the estate from its assets
  • Complying with state and federal laws
  • Distributing property to the heirs after all procedures are followed

WHAT IS DONE DURING ADMINISTRATION?

At the beginning, all assets of the estate, including personal possessions and real estate, are inventoried and sometimes physically gathered. All of the beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will) are located. They are told that they were named in the will or have a legal right to receive an inheritance. Funeral expenses, debts, state and federal taxes are paid, and necessary tax returns are filed. At the conclusion of the administration period, a final accounting of all assets is presented for approval to the county court. After approval, distribution of the balance of assets is accomplished.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE FIRST?

If someone close to you has died, it is suggested that nothing be done to disturb any of the property of the deceased unless it is necessary to protect it from being lost or destroyed. Shortly after the funeral, an attorney should be contacted to discuss the matter with those close to the deceased. The lawyer will provide advice, determine whether administration will be required, and explain what procedures will be involved. If a will is found, the person named as executor should protect the will and give it to the attorney at the first consultation.

CHECK LIST FOR GRANT OF LETTERS AND ESTATE FILINGS

When you arrive at the Register of Will's Office:

    1. Completed Petition for Grant of Letters
    2. Original Will and Codicil and one (1) photocopy of Will and Codicil (if applicable)
    3. Witnesses if Will is not a self-proved Will
    4. Death Certificate
    5. Renunciations (if applicable)
    6. Fees

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE:

Advertisement of Probate

Notification to the Department of Public Welfare and Attorney General

Within three (3) months of Date of Death

  1. Prepayment of inheritance taxes if discount is to be obtained

Within three (3) months of Grant of Letters

  1. Rule 10.5 Certification of Notice to Heirs

Within nine (9) month of Date of Death

  1. REV-1500 Inheritance Tax Return in duplicate with copy of Will (if applicable).
    Filing fee may be applicable
  2. Pay Inheritance Tax
  3. File Inventory (fee applicable)

Within two (2) years of Date of Death and annually until complete

     1.  Rule 10.6 Status Report