Philadelphia Probate Lawyer
Helping Clients Through the Probate Process
Probate is the process through which the estate of the deceased must pass before it can be distributed to their beneficiaries according to either the terms of their last will and testament or Pennsylvania intestate laws. During the probate process, the estate will be scrutinized, analyzed, and possibly even taxed before being passed on, which could be a lengthy and frustrating process.
At Chestnut Hill Legal, our probate lawyer understands your goal is to set up your estate in a way that avoids probate. We’re determined to help you achieve this by assisting you in the creation of a high-quality, specific plan to arrange your assets. Our Philadelphia probate attorney offers high-quality strategies that utilize a variety of different estate planning tools. These tools include wills, trusts, and other binding documentation making your final wishes legally binding.
How Can I Avoid Probate in Philadelphia?
If you own anything individually when you pass away, your assets will go through the probate process. However, ownership isn’t necessarily a simple matter. Careful planning can change how ownership of particular assets is determined, and thus help you avoid probate entirely.
Probate may not be necessary if all of your assets are:
Jointly-held: If all someone owns at the time of their passing is a home and a bank account which were both jointly-held with a spouse, both of these assets pass to the surviving spouse without going through probate.
Passed into an irrevocable living trust: Irrevocable trusts are not controlled by the trustor, meaning they don’t actually legally possess them, thus they’re excluded in terms of probate.
Placed into a revocable trust-centered plan: As long as all individually-held assets were transferred into the trust during the trustor’s life, the decedent doesn’t technically own anything upon their death, and thus probate isn’t necessary.
Determining the best way to protect your assets from the probate process is something you should only undertake with the assistance of a qualified and knowledgeable attorney.
The Probate Process
If you find yourself in a situation where probate is necessary, it's important to understand the steps to probating an estate.
First, if the decedent left a last will and testament, this document must be authenticated. An estate without a will is considered "intestate," and in these cases, the decedent's property is passed to their closest relatives according to state law.
A judge will appoint an executor or personal representative to the estate if one wasn't specified in the will. Without a will or named executor, the court will appoint the decedent's next of kin. If necessary, a bond is posted to act as an insurance policy if the executor acts in error during the probate process.
Executors are responsible for managing nearly all aspects of probate, including locating and determining the value of assets, paying any remaining debts of the decedent, preparing and filing tax returns, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries. If an existing will gives assets to minors, the executor will likely need to set up a trust as minors cannot legally own property.
What is the Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer?
While there is overlap between probate and estate law, there are key differences that separate them. Probate law deals with a person's assets once they have passed away, estate law deals with the designating of a living person's assets for when they eventually pass away. A probate attorney can help you navigate the process if your loved one has passed away, whereas an estate planning lawyer will help a person determine the plan of action for their assets after they are deceased.
Whether you want to avoid potential probate or you are struggling with the probate process, the attorneys at Chestnut Hill Legal can assist you. Our lawyer for probate can help you determine your best options to protect your assets from probate, fulfill all off your duties if you are named as an executor of an estate, or understand your rights as an heir or beneficiary under Pennsylvania state law.
Call Chestnut Hill Legal in Philadelphia, PA today at (610) 991-7986 to request a free consultation with a skilled probate lawyer!