Our Comprehensive Estate Probate Services help personal representatives of decedents’ estates fulfill the duties required of them under Pennsylvania probate law. In doing so, we also ensure that the wishes of their loved ones are honored. Our Comprehensive Estate Probate Services are the most complete services available. (We also offer more basic probate services for personal representatives who desire less than our full and complete services.). Many of our clients live outside of Pennsylvania and are administering estates for loved one who resided in the Commonwealth.
When a Pennsylvania resident dies with a will, the will usually identifies an executor or co-executors. When a person dies without a will, the Register of Wills of the County in which the decedent lived is authorized to appoint the individual (usually a family member) to serve as the estate’s administrator. The executor or the administrator (personal representative) is the person who performs most of the tasks related to the estate probate process. The personal representative has a fiduciary duty (a duty of trust) to place the interests of the heirs and the estate above his or her own interests while performing these tasks.
The duties of a personal representative can be difficult to understand and fulfill. Personal representatives who attempt to handle the probate process without professional help may make mistakes. They may also fail to perform their various duties within the time required by law. When this happens, the estate’s heirs and creditors may have legal claims against the personal representative. For these reasons and more, personal representatives often hire probate lawyers to help them through the process and to protect them from personal liability. A probate attorney’s advice will generally protect the personal representative from liability from creditors and heirs for legal decisions made in reliance upon that advice. This protection does not extend to business decisions.
Since 1983, our estate probate lawyers have assisted personal representatives in the probate process and we offer a full range of estate administration services for these individuals. These include personal representatives, trustees, and others. Our clients are people who live in Pennsylvania, in other states, and outside the country.
Duties of a Personal Representative
The personal representative’s main duties are to:
- secure and protect the assets of the estate
- pay the estate’s debts
- distribute the remaining assets to the proper heirs as directed by the Will or as required by state probate law
Some people choose to perform these duties themselves, with our guidance. But, many of our clients prefer to have our probate lawyers handle every aspect of the probate process for them.
Here are some of the Comprehensive Estate Probate Services you may want us to perform:
- We can help you obtain your appointment as executor or administrator. We will complete and file the required documents with the appropriate Register of Wills office. If you live in another state or country, we can help you obtain your appointment without traveling to Pennsylvania.
- The law requires certain proposed executors or administrators to post bond in Pennsylvania. These may include personal representatives who live out of state (Pennsylvania Estate Probate for Out of State clients). We can help you to secure the proper bond (a surety bond) during your term of service.
- Our Pennsylvania Estate Probate Lawyers can also advise you about your fiduciary duties. These duties are among the most important aspects of your job as personal representative.
- We can advertise the estate and give legal notice to beneficiaries and heirs.
- We can secure and inventory all of the estate’s assets. We can obtain the proper insurance on these assets. We can also guard against unauthorized access to estate assets. We can cancel credit cards, freeze bank accounts, and take other steps to accomplish this.
- If the estate assets include an on-going business, we can make sure the business is able to continue in a manner approved by you. We can also handle the sale of the business if the heirs wish to have it sold.
If the estate assets include a personal residence, we can secure and otherwise take all of the steps required to prepare the property for sale. This includes, by way of example, securing the home and hiring the right individuals to clean home and make the necessary repairs in advance of sale, clear title and represent you at closing.
- If the estate includes rental properties, we can help with any landlord tenant concerns that arise. We can help to ensure that the estate continues to collect rents in a timely fashion.
- We can get unique types of personal property that the heirs wish to have sold ready for sale.
- We can pay estate debts. These debts often include medical and funeral service bills, credit card debt and the like. In many cases, we can negotiate a reduction in some of the estate’s debts.
- We can prepare and file all required tax returns. These returns include state inheritance tax returns. These may also include individual federal, state, and local returns for a decedent’s last year of life. We can also file federal estate tax returns and fiduciary tax returns when appropriate.
- Our Comprehensive Estate Probate Services also include the preparation of final accountings. We can also prepare informal family settlement agreements. These can help to protect you from personal liability from heirs and other parties. When appropriate, we can also prepare a formal final accounting in the Orphan’s Court of the county where the probate occurs.
- We can help you receipts and releases and distribute the estate’s assets as required by law.
- We can prepare final closing documents at the probate’s conclusion
Our probate lawyers can perform all of these Comprehensive Estate Probate Services in the most efficient and least costly manner. We will keep you fully informed throughout the process.
We will also address any questions or concerns you may have. We generally do not ask clients to pay our fees until the estate’s assets are distributed. The estate rather than the executor usually pays our fees.
Comprehensive Estate Probate Services
for Out-of-State Clients
Our Comprehensive Estate Probate Services are especially useful to people who are living in another state or country when they learn their Pennsylvania family member has died. We offer a full range of services to meet the needs of these distant clients.
At your request, we can handle every part of the probate process for you. Our services can begin with your appointment as executor or administrator. They can extend to the final accounting and closing of the estate. Our full services include all those listed above and any others that you may need to enable you to fulfill your duties as personal representative without leaving your home. We serve our probate clients who live out of state through:
- phone calls
- overnight delivery, and
- video conferences