Estate administration is the process by which a person’s assets are collected, inventoried, and distributed after their death. A person’s estate must pass through probate, regardless of whether or not they have a will. The estate must be opened in the probate court of the county in which the deceased person resided.
A person who died with a will is said to have died testate. The probate court will review the will to ensure it is valid and properly executed. Then the estate will be administered according to the instructions in the will.
A person who died intestate died without a will. The court will follow the laws of intestacy to distribute the person’s property to their heirs.
Estate administration begins by appointing an administrator or executor.
The estate representative will take an inventory of the deceased person’s property, notify heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the person’s death, and file an inventory and accounting of the estate with the probate court. The estate representative will pay debts and estate taxes, then distribute estate property according to the terms of the will or the laws of intestacy. Then the estate representative will close the estate.
Someone who wishes to avoid probate may consider using a trust as part of their estate plan. Assets placed in a trust pass outside of probate and do not require court approval. However, even if you have a trust as part of your estate plan, you will still need to open an estate to address any assets that were not placed in the trust.
You may also consider designating beneficiaries of certain assets, like insurance policies, so these assets pass outside of probate, or using a Transfer on Death designation to transfer assets automatically without the need for probate court approval.
If you were named as an estate executor or estate administrator, The Kulick Law Firm can help you navigate the complex probate process.
Our attorneys have more than 20 years of combined experience representing people in Pennsylvania probate courts. From our offices in Exeter, we routinely practice in courts throughout Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.