Understanding the probate process

When a friend or loved one passes away, it is often difficult to deal with the aftermath involving property and assets. It can be difficult to make critical decisions when dealing with the emotional despair of losing someone. The deceased may have left behind an estate filled with possessions, property and assets he or she wanted to distribute to heirs after passing. In some cases, a will may have been left behind. However, there are other situations where a person may have died without creating a last will and testament. Either way, the case may enter the probate process to help in finalizing the estate.

The first step of probate is to determine whether the will is valid. It is then the responsibility of the estate administrator to gather and appraise any property and assets that were left behind. Once this is accomplished, the administrator must pay off any debt, expenses or taxes remaining on the estate. Finally, the remaining property is distributed to the rightful heirs named in the will.

Not all cases are sent to probate in Pennsylvania. People who put their property and assets in a living trust before they pass away may avoid having their estate go through the process. If the property is jointly owned by another person who is still living, the estate may avoid probate as well. Bank accounts and funds that include the clause, ‘payable on death,’ may be transferred directly to beneficiaries without going through the probate process. Although the probate process make take time, it may be beneficial in helping to finalized the estate.

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