Probate is a burden that falls on many after the death of a loved one. It can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. It can also be a costly one. Fortunately, there are many ways to plan your estate so that the bulk, if not all, of it avoids probate completely. Though, if you have not set up your estate plan in such a way, your heirs and loved ones are likely going to have to confront probate. They may be, however, offered a reprieve from the full probate process depending upon the size of your estate. Pennsylvania offers simplified probate as a probate shortcut for what are deemed to be “small estates.”
Simplified Probate for Small Estates
Pennsylvania’s simplified probate option for small estates can greatly ease the ability for survivors to transfer property after a loved one has passed away. In fact, even smaller amounts of cash can be transferred to heirs of the deceased without needing the approval of the probate court.
In order to be able to take advantage of simplified probate, the personal representative of the estate must file a written request to the local probate court. Such a request will be approved for qualifying estates. In order to utilize simplified probate proceedings, the property of the estate must be worth $50,000 or less. This does not include real estate, funeral costs, certain payments made to the family, and certain vehicles as well.
If an estate is approved for simplified probate proceedings, then the number of hoops needed to jump through prior to distributing assets of the estate are likely to be greatly diminished. For instance, creditors may not even need to be given notice in such proceedings. Simplified probate does not, however, mean that creditors and taxes will not need to be paid.
The small estate is to be distributed according to the terms set forth in the will of the decedent. Any real property owned by the decedent at their time of death will still require formal probate proceedings. This remains true regardless of the real property’s value.
On top of the option to go through simplified probate proceedings, it is important to be aware of other probate shortcuts available in Pennsylvania. For instance, Pennsylvania law allows financial institutions to release up to $10,000 to surviving family members without needing the approval of the probate court (as long as funeral expenses have already been covered). Surviving family members need only show the financial institution a certified copy of the death certificate and proof of funeral expense payment. Additionally, Pennsylvania employers are permitted to pay up to $5,000 to the surviving spouse, surviving children, or certain relatives of a deceased employee without needing the probate court’s authorization.
Estate Planning Attorneys
If you need help navigating the probate process after the loss of a loved one, you can turn to the dedicated team at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace. Contact us today.