If you have recently lost and loved one and found out that you are in charge of administering their estate, your may be feeling overwhelmed. Not only are you dealing with your grief, but now you must deal with the probate and estate administration process. In this blog post, we will start with some of the basics of what is involved in estate administration and probate.
What is an estate?
The term “estate” refers to everything the deceased owned at the time of their death. This includes not only personal belongings, but also bank accounts, real estate and any other assets they solely owned.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process of settling a person’s estate. A probate court oversees the administration. If the deceased left a will, a probate court confirms that the will is valid. The personal representative named in the will is then in charge of administering the estate according to the terms of the will, under the supervision of the probate court. If the person did not leave behind a valid will, and if the estate is worth more than $50,000, the estate must be distributed according to Pennsylvania’s law of intestate succession. This can lead to distant relatives
What goes through probate?
Unless the estate was small — below $50,000, everything in the estate must go through the probate process.
Here’s where an important point comes in. Remember that the estate consists of assets that the deceased “solely” owned at the time of their death. This means that certain types of assets are not considered parts of the estate.
For instance, if the deceased owned a piece of real estate as a joint tenancy, then ownership of the property passes to the other tenants immediately upon the person’s death. It is common for a married couple to own a home together as tenants in common, and in this type of situation, the home is not considered part of the estate after one spouse dies. Similarly, a living trust and a bank account with a “transfer on death” policy are not part of the estate. A life insurance policy that pays to a beneficiary would also avoid probate.