I essentially work with the executor/administrator/trustee and help them manage the assets and expenses of the decedent. It’s like taking over a person’s financial life after they have passed.
If we need to probate, I prepare the court documents and set up the appointment to get the executor/administrator appointed. Once that’s done there is estate/trust advertising, bank accounts to manage, securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) to sell or transfer, life insurance/annuity/retirement claim forms to file, an inheritance tax return needs to be filed 9 months from date of death (tax estimate paid within 3 months of death to get tax discount), bills to be paid, selling or transferring real estate, etc. Once an appraisement letter is received from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the inheritance tax (6-9 months or longer from the date the return was filed), we can make final distributions and close out the matter. It is a lengthy and time-consuming process that can be frustrating. I do my best to make the process as comfortable as I can.
Myths and Mysteries of the Probate Process:
- Even if all assets are in trust, joint name or have specific beneficiaries assigned, it’s the same process except for the estate administration. We still have to get date of death confirmation values on all assets, account for all debts and expenses paid and prepare a Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return. Unfortunately, it is not a quick process.
- Depending on the company the amount of paperwork needed to transfer, sell or claim assets can be overwhelming. Please be patient. Once all claim forms are signed and filed, it can take 10 days to a few weeks for the claim to be reviewed once it is in the company’s computer system. This is not usually a quick process.
- I need the following information to start working on a file: bank statements including decedent’s date of death, current deed on all real estate, investment/brokerage statements including decedent’s date of death, life insurance/annuity/retirement paperwork, copy of most recent personal income tax return, copies of bills paid and/or checks drawn.
- Stock certificates should be deposited with a broker or investment service. Stock certificates are like holding cash in your hand. If the certificate is lost, there is a lost certificate fee to get it reissued. Please keep your investment safe.
- If there is only a bank account with $10,000 or less in the decedent’s name alone on a date of death, a spouse, any child, father or mother, or any sister or brother (preference in that order) can close the account with a copy of the death certificate and the invoice showing the funeral is paid in full. No probate is necessary.
If you would like to learn more about avoiding the probate process, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.