How to Avoid Making Major Mistakes When Distributing Inheritance

The distribution of inheritance in the estate administration process has many potential pitfalls. As a probate attorney, I’ve seen the complexities and consequences that can arise from missteps in distributing money from the estate. Distributions should be handled with caution to ensure that there are no legal repercussions to the executor.


Errors in distributions can lead to legal liability and family conflicts. Estate executors can be held personally liable for any mistakes in distribution. Claims can be made by potential creditors, government agencies, or beneficiaries if they receive less than what is believed to be owed. Some of the common mistakes people have asked me to help rectify include distributing assets before creditors have had a chance to present their claims, mishandling tax liabilities, or closing the estate without a written Family Settlement Agreement from all beneficiaries. While I am happy to help resolve prior mistakes, the best practice is “that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Why You Should Protect Your Children with an Estate Plan

Losing a parent is an incredibly difficult experience for any child. As a probate attorney, I have seen firsthand how the lack of an estate plan can compound this pain. This is particularly evident in Pennsylvania, where estate law intricacies can pose additional challenges. One common struggle adult children face in such scenarios is the feeling that they cannot fulfill their parents’ unspoken wishes, which often leads to disappointment and regret. If the children are minors at the time of the parents’ death, the lack of an estate plan can create a very costly legal process for the surviving family and an even more emotional strain for the minors.


A well-prepared estate plan significantly reduces emotional stress and brings peace to your loved ones during these hard times. An estate plan offers clear guidance through the probate process, a journey that can be daunting without a proper plan in place. Many of my clients express the desire to complete probate quickly, primarily to ease the burden on their children. Estate plans are invaluable because they provide certainty and direction for resolving legal issues that arise during probate.


What is an Estate Inventory in Pennsylvania?

When a loved one passes away, the person nominated to serve as the estate’s representative is known as the executor or administrator of the estate. The representative takes on the responsibilities and legal risks associated with doing this job according to the law.  


One of the legal duties of a personal representative is to file an inventory with the Register of Wills within three months of being appointed as the representative. The purpose of an estate inventory is to list all the assets of the probate estate and their fair market valuations.  


The inventory filing, along with the entire estate file, is public record and easily accessible by anyone interested in viewing the estate.    (more…)