Potential clients often ask whether it is possible to skip probate when there is a Will. This is a reasonable question because the Will states who should receive the deceased’s money and property. Why then is it necessary to involve the court and deal with the estate administration process?
The answer lies in the legal distinction between “probate” and “non-probate” property. Any property which was titled in the deceased person’s name at the time of passing is considered “probate” property. In all but a few narrow exceptions, property that was titled in the deceased’s is subject to estate administration.
What is the Difference Between an Executor, Administrator, and Personal Representative?
There are several different terms which can identify the representative of a deceased person’s estate in Pennsylvania. These terms can be confusing because they are often used interchangeably though they carry different meanings.
When a person dies with a Will, the representative is known as the Executor or Executrix. The Will of the deceased usually nominates a person to serve. It is the job of the Executor to petition the Register of Wills to open the estate and carry out the terms of the Will.
Executors can gain appointment at the Register of Wills by presenting the original Will and the death certificate along with a petition for probate. If the petition is granted, the Register of Wills will issue Letters Testamentary.
What Should You Do When You Receive a Notice of Estate Administration?
When a personal representative is appointed as the executor of an estate, the local Register of Wills issues Letters Testamentary to the representative. Issuance of Letters formally opens an estate and grants authority to handle the legal and financial affairs of the estate.
Certain people are entitled to notice that an estate has been opened under Pennsylvania law. The representative is required by law to mail a standard form Notice of Estate Administration to certain individuals within three months of the grant of Letters. The list includes anyone named in the deceased’s Will, the spouse and children (whether or not named in the Will), and individuals who are entitled to receive property under intestacy law when there is no Will.
The purpose of the Notice is to notify specified people that a representative has been appointed, allow opportunity for objections, and to protect against fraud. The notice must be printed from a standard form prepared by the Court and mailed first class to the required persons.
How Can I Prevent Fraud and Avoid Becoming Disinherited?