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Why Probate Isn't Always a Bad Thing

A lot of people will not be familiar with the word probateuntil they've lost a loved and are either a beneficiary or an heir of an estate. What is probate? The probate or estate administration process occurs when someone dies owning assets in his or her name alone and an estate must be managed by a personal representative to handle the decedent's assets and settle his or her affairs. 

When there is a will, the personal representative is called an "executor" and that person was appointed by the deceased in the will. If the deceased failed to execute a will, then the court appoints an "administrator" to settle the estate. The executor or administrator is the only person that is authorized to handle the decedent's assets and matters of estate administration.

In comparison to other states, a Pennsylvania probate doesn't take as long. Executors and administrators are empowered to handle most of the details of an estate without needing court approval for every single transaction; for example, liquidating assets and paying debts and expenses against the estate. Because executors and administrators have broad powers to accomplish estate administration in a quick manner, they are encouraged to handle their duties swiftly and effectively.

If you are a beneficiary worried about having your inheritance tied up in probate proceedings, it's important to understand that probate is a process required under state law. It doesn't mean that something is wrong with the will or that the estate is more complicated than most. The Pennsylvania courts view probate as an efficient way to protect beneficiaries and to assure proper distribution of estate assets.

While the executor or administrator has a great deal of authority to administrate an estate, their actions are still overseen by the court. The personal representative must follow a number of court rules and procedures which typically include providing notice to beneficiaries and creditors of hearings, and providing accountings that explain income and disbursements for the estate.

In Allegheny County, as in all of Pennsylvania, the Wills/Orphans' Court Division determines whether a document offered for probate should be accepted as the decedent's will. Wills are frequently challenged based on the grounds of forgery, lack of mental capacity of the testator, or undue influence. In this case, an Orphans' Court Judge hears all testimony wit regard to any will contest and makes a decision whether to accept or reject the document offered.

In essence, having the court determine if a will is valid and monitor the executor's actions is beneficial for all involved because it prohibits a rogue personal representative from squandering away estate assets or utilizing them for his or her own benefit. If a beneficiary has a challenge over how the personal representative is handling his or her duties, the beneficiary has the option to petition the court for his or her removal.

For further information about the benefits of probate, I encourage you to contact me at the D'Onofrio Law Office, P.C. for a complimentary consultation by calling (888) 824-6795.

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