Probate of a Last Will and Testament

The Law Offices of Leo Mikityanskiy represents clients in probate and administration proceedings and appeals in Bucks County and Philadelphia County, PA courts.  Probate is a proceeding to distribute the property of the testator, a deceased person who left a Will. The probate estate (property passing under the Will) includes the testator’s property that did not pass through Trusts, joint title ownership or operation of law.  The Register of Wills in Pennsylvania determines whether the Will offered for probate will be accepted at the Last Will and Testament of the decedent.  The Register of Will issues the Letters Testamentary if the Will is accepted.  The Register of Will also issues Letters of Administration, usually to a relative of the decedent, if there is no Will.  However, sometimes issues arise as to the genuineness of the Will, the testamentary capacity of the decedent, or allegations that the Will was signed under undue influence.  The Register of Wills will hear testimony and accept evidence to make a decision whether the Will is accepted or rejected.  The Register of Wills also collects Pennsylvania inheritance tax.  The Register of Will’s decisions may be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas Orphans’ Court Division.

Although the probate process is simpler in Pennsylvania than in some other states, there are still laws and rules that must be followed during probate, so the probate process may be unfamiliar to the nominated Executor and may take some time to complete.  Attorney Leonid Mikityanskiy provides Estate Planning services to avoid or simplify the probate process.

For those who must go through the probate process after the death of a loved one who left a Will, Leonid Mikityanskiy can provide probate and estate administration services and guide you through the probate process. The first thing necessary to start the probate process is finding the original Will if it has not already been found and authenticated.

Having a valid Will, a petition to probate the Will and other documents must be prepared and filed with the Register of Wills to establish the Will’s validity and have it admitted to probate. Proper notice must be given to the beneficiaries after the issuance of Letters Testamentary and a notice of the estate must be published in a newspaper. After that, the Executor named in the Will must identify, collect and inventory the estate assets (an inventory of estate assets must be filed), notify known creditors, sell the assets as necessary, pay off the estate debts, pay federal and state taxes, including estate and inheritance taxes and the testator’s last income taxes, and, finally, divide and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.

The probate process may be more complicated, depending on the value and location of the property in the estate. The probate is also a fairly long process. It usually takes at least 7-9 months before the assets can be distributed to heirs, and sometimes it takes 12 months or more because creditors in Pennsylvania have up to a year to file claims against the estate. Any Estate Litigation, Will contest, accounting, or dispute with creditors can considerably increase that time period.

Administration of an Estate without a Will

What if a person died intestate or without a Will? If your loved one died without a will, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania law governs who inherits what part of the estate.  Surviving spouses and children usually have property rights under the estate. As a relative, you may be appointed the Administrator of the estate by obtaining Letters of Administration from the Register of Wills, which will give you the authority to administer the assets under the estate. Estate administration is a slightly different proceeding than the Probate, but all of the same basic steps must be followed, including notice to intestate heirs.  Unlike in the probate process, in which the requirement for a bond may be dispensed with in the Will, the Administrator may have to post a bond, or insurance for the value of the estate assets, to be appointed.

Administration of an Estate through a Trust

An estate can be managed through a living or testamentary Trust. A trust is a legal method of passing or distributing property and wealth as a gift. You can appoint a trustee of the trust who will hold and manage property in trust for your beneficiaries. A trustee is a fiduciary with a strict set of duties to the trust and its beneficiaries.  The trustee holds, invests and manages the assets of the trust to carry out the trust’s purposes.  The trustee is frequently required to keep accounting of the capital assets, income, and distributions, and is sometimes required to account to the beneficiaries or a court.

The trustee may need legal or accounting advice on a number of issues concerning the management of the trust and its assets, financial accounting, and interactions with the beneficiaries of the trust. Sometimes, it is prudent or necessary to obtain a court’s approval before making distributions, modifying the terms or conditions of the trust, or interpreting the provisions of the trust. A knowledgeable attorney who practices in the area of estate administration will help the trustee prepare and file an appropriate petition in court to obtain the court’s approval.

Careful planning and preparation are essential to ensure your property will be distributed according to your wishes. Attorney Leonid Mikityanskiy is skilled at preparing and executing the documents needed by individuals to implement their Estate Plan, as well as providing assistance in the probate or administration of your estate or trust. We provide counseling to Executors, Administrators and Trustees during probate and trust administration.

To contact attorney Leonid Mikityanskiy about a Will, probate or estate administration, estate litigation, or a trust, please call our Feasterville, PA office at (215) 357-1400.   Probate and estate administration attorney Leonid Mikityanskiy represents clients in estate litigation and Will contests in Bucks County and Philadelphia, PA.

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