How to Know Whether Probate is Necessary

When a loved one passes away, it can be confusing to determine what legal requirements must be met for the estate. You may not have a lot of information, and the sources you read online may be very unclear. When families call our office who have never been involved in an estate situation, they first want to know if probate is required. The two most common questions are Can I skip probate if there is a Will? and What should we do when a loved one passed without a Will?


Can probate be skipped if there is a Will?


You may wonder if probate is required if a Will was left by your loved one. This is a reasonable question because, after all, the Will states who should receive the money and property. The Will also usually states who the personal representative should be. So, is probate required if there is a Will? The general rule is that any property that was left in the deceased person’s name at passing must go through probate. This is the law whether or not there was a Will directing the distribution of that property. The Will determines who receives the property, but a Will cannot help you avoid probate.


What happens if my loved one passed without a Will?


If a person passes without a Will, all the deceased’s property passes through probate just as if there was a Will. The main difference is that the rules concerning who receives property and how a representative are appointed are more complex.


When there is no Will, Pennsylvania law has a process for how a representative is appointed. This law is called “intestacy”. The law also determines the order in which next of kin receive property. Applying the law to a particular situation can be quite complex depending on the structure of family descendants at the time of passing.


If a person passed without a Will, it will be necessary to obtain Renunciations from all the persons who are entitled to serve as the estate representative. If any of the heirs are uncooperative, the dispute can be resolved through an additional court petition.


As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:


Phone: (215) 918-4242 

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If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.