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Pennsylvania Probate Questions & Answers
1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: My son’s grandmother passed away July 2023. She had left him $25,000 through a life insurance policy from Prudential.

They are requesting I get a court order for guardianship of a minors estate. Can I do this myself or do I need to contact a lawyer? What should my next steps be?

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on May 22, 2024

My experience with insurance companies is that 1) they usually hope to delay payments out as long as possible, though they demand immediate payment of premiums, and 2) the quickest way to get payment if for a beneficiary to give them what they want (they have armies of lawyers on the payroll.... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Last Will. I received a copy of my father's will naming his girlfriend as executor. I m a beneficiary. Any rights?

His girlfriend was named beneficiary. Went to lawyer who wanted $5k. She wouldn't pay. My 3 sisters n myself and his church are to evenly divide 50% of his estate but we do not have access to anything. We have never had a good relationship with her. As benefactors, should we be updated on... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on May 5, 2024

Heirs' rights?

Yes, you actually do have many. The best starting point is duties of an Executrix in PA, which are many, but the overriding drive is that every personal representative of a probate estate is to maximize the value of the Estate for the benefit of creditors and the heirs,...
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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: I just became the executor of my father’s estate. He currently owns a home in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend.

I have to sell my father‘s house due to the amount of debt he accumulated over the years. She hasn’t been keeping up with the mortgage payment, which is now three months behind. Can I sell my father‘s house while behind on payments? Do I need to give my father’s girlfriend, an eviction... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Mar 2, 2024

Who is on the deed to the residence? Look at the most recent deed of record, the chain of title. Life estates? You can have a title search done for both ownership and all liens, and you should do that, as the personal rep of the Estate. If the Estate has a lawyer, that probate lawyer will know... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Upon death of a husband and there’s no bcceneficiary form for a 401k plan, does the wife receivethe distribution?
James L. Arrasmith
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James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
answered on Feb 23, 2024

In the absence of a designated beneficiary form for a 401(k) plan, the distribution of the funds will typically follow the plan's default provisions and legal regulations. Generally, the spouse of the deceased individual is considered the primary beneficiary by default in many cases,... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Drawing up our own online will for my mother's estate , if I have it notorized in Pennsylvania will it be valid for Nj.?
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Feb 6, 2024

Pursuant to New Jersey statutory law, S.A, 3B:3-2B, a holographic Will, e.g., one handwritten by the decedent, even unsigned (the handwriting of the decedent of the context of the Will may be good enough), can be admitted to probate in NJ, regardless of the location of its drafting. But there are... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: How long does it take for an attorney to become executor of an estate?

My mother passed away in October. I've been working with an attorney to settle her estate: me and the other heir's signed renunciation papers. I live in another state, and the others are unable to settle the estate.

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Jan 27, 2024

Admitting a Will and having a named personal representative (Executor/Executrix) appointed is a pretty simple matter, in most cases, although a personal appearance by the personal representative at the Probate Clerk's office is usually required, to be sworn in.

That can happen where...
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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Is it normal for a probate to take over a year and half with a will? There are stocks involved but no property.

Something just doesn't feel right with my in laws estate. The mother passed June of 2022 the father in September. They were seperated, so seperate estates. The mother in laws was just sent to the state for taxes, the lawyer said the stocks portion of it were tedious. My wife just had to... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Dec 15, 2023

Whatever is "normal" is governed, and overridden, by a probated Last Will, with its description of powers of the personal representative/Executor.

The appointed pers rep is charged to ensure that any actions of the Estate work to maximize the distribution to the beneficiaries....
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1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Is it my responsibility or my brother's kids to give the probate attorney a death certificate for him?

In early October, my mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She didn't have a will. She lived in Pennsylvania, and I'm in Texas, so I have to do all this from afar.

The probate attorney told me I would need death certificates for her. A few weeks ago, he told me he would need... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Nov 26, 2023

Determination of legal heirs where there is no Will is provided in the PA statutes.

Your PA probate attorney has this answer at his fingertips.

While it does seem that the brother's children would anxious to prove their entitlement to shares of his estate, it is best to give...
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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Can you avoid getting a probate bond without a will?

My mother passed away recently, and she didn't have a will. I contacted an attorney to take care of her estate, and I'm getting the death certificates he needs.

He told me that since she didn't have a will, I'd have to get a bond. The problem is I don't have the... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Nov 17, 2023

Probate court rules can vary from county to county, but in your situation, a "family agreement", which usually deals with matters of both distribution and procedures, would be a good place to provide that you are to be the personal representative and that you are to serve without bond... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Probate and Tax Law for Pennsylvania on
Q: In PA, Can non-probate inheritances be filed on a separate inheritance tax return from the return filed by the estate?

e.g., An estate is established, no will exists. Probate (and some non-probate) items will be included on the Inheritance Tax Return filed for the estate. There also exist some non-probate items with beneficiaries named (e.g. IRA, annuities). Can the beneficiary file their own Inheritance tax... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
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W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Nov 16, 2023

In PA, the "estate tax" is levied upon the fair market value of the benefit distributed. Usually, the Will provides that the Estate will pay all debts, and that includes the tax on bequests. Once paid, the distributed benefit gets the "stepped up basis" to its fair market... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: How do we start the process of removing the executor?

My sister is executor, my mom passed May 2020, and had a very simple estate. Still not closed out, and she will not respond to emails from me or the probate attorney. There are deposits in moms name she will not clarify where they are

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Oct 25, 2023

This issue, and your questions, should be addressed to your probate attorney.

In PA, every personal representative, whether executor named in a probated will or and administrator, both appointed, and entrusted, by the court, is required to file an Inventory of all estate assets. That...
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2 Answers | Asked in Family Law and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: I have a question about my deceased fathers life insurance policy and who receives benefits if no beneficiaries
Michael Cherewka
Michael Cherewka
answered on Oct 24, 2023

with life insurance policies if there are no named beneficiaries the policy proceeds will be payable to your father's Estate. If your father had a Will, then the Executor named in the Will can probate the Will, open an Estate and then collect the proceeds from the insurance company. If your... View More

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1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Can I renounce my right as an executor, and is it difficult to do so?

My mother recently passed away. My father passed away in 2016. My mom had no will, no life insurance, or retirement savings. She had a mortgage, a car that was already paid for, and whatever money was left in her account from her monthly social security and wasn't already spent on the monthly... View More

Stephen M. Asbel
Stephen M. Asbel
answered on Oct 12, 2023

It is fairly simple to renounce your right to administer an estate in Pennsylvania. You fill out form Orphans Court Form RW-06 (you can download it) including filling in who is agreeing to administer the estate in your place. You have to sign the form in the presence of a notary. You give the... View More

1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Am I able to disclaim an inheritance?

My mother lived in Pennsylvania and recently passed. I live in Texas, and I am unable to go to Pennsylvania. Me and my fiance do not have the money to make the trip. We are also out of paid vacation time for the year, and it would create financial hardship for us.

Someone told me that I... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Oct 10, 2023

Yes, you can disclaim your inheritance. There are time limits. Usually, a disclaimer is done for tax reasons.

You should have no need to attend any court hearings in PA if you are only a named beneficiary in the decedent's Last Will. However, if you are named as the Executor, an...
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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Tax Law and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: In Pennsylvania, do we need to file a REV-485 Safety Deposit Box Inventory Form if there was only old junk paperwork?

My sister and I are co-administrator’s of my father’s estate, and my parents had an old Safety Deposit Box at a bank, and after we went through the process to get access to the Box and to empty the box, the contents of the box was just old paperwork like vaccination records and stuff like that... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Sep 23, 2023

File the form, showing the box contents, and put this issue to rest.

If you fail to do the report, there is always a question, an open possibility that someone may allege that something of great value was inside.

People can do strange things during the pendency of an Estate.

2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: The successor of my father's deceased lawyer isn’t helping me obtain a will from his files. Is this ethical?

My father recently passed. His lawyer (now deceased) held the original signed will (unsigned copies were with my father and me). I reached out to the lawyer who inherited the files. He confirmed as the successor, pledged to check for the files, and communicate further. Regrettably, he failed to... View More

Michael Cherewka
Michael Cherewka
answered on Aug 24, 2023

It is unfortunate that this attorney has stopped communicating with you, especially if he has already confirmed that he is the successor to the prior attorney's practice and has his files. Since you have a copy of the Will, I would recommend that you hire your own attorney (assuming that you... View More

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3 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Dad passed, left accounts as payable on death to me, his sole heir. One bank is requiring a short form (don't have yet).

Haven't processed will due to copy issue and dad’s lawyer passing. Short form delay could cost tax savings.

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Aug 22, 2023

It appears, from your post, that your are both the sole heir and the named Executor in the Will. As a matter of practice, it is always best that the named Executor/Executrix have the original, or a duplicate original, of the Will, inasmuch as it is the named personal rep who is responsible for... View More

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3 Answers | Asked in Civil Litigation, Estate Planning, Landlord - Tenant and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: Can an executor of a will evict family members from a house? Need to sell.

The owners have passed away, family members refuse to leave but have not paid bills, I had to pay in order to keep utilities on. The house has been left to me and I am also the executor of the will. I need to sell the property, in order to sell it they need to move out so I can clean and get... View More

W. J. Winterstein Jr.
PREMIUM
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
answered on Aug 2, 2023

I see no impediment to the Estate's immediate right to possess the real property, and you are, as Executor, the voice of the Estate.

So yes, especially given that you are the heir to the home property, your request for eviction, for at least the given reasons, should be honored.

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2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Pennsylvania on
Q: In PA is a beneficiary entitled to gifts from a decedent's will if the beneficiary dies before probate is finalized?

A beneficiary was named in a Pennsylvania will. The will went to probate in PA courts, but the beneficary died before the probate and any gifts were distributed. It had been over 1 year and 6 mts since Probate started. The executor is stating that the beneficary will not receive the gifts... View More

Mark Scoblionko
Mark Scoblionko
answered on Jul 22, 2023

The timing of probate would not be relevant unless there is something in the Will that would make it relevant. If the beneficiary was living at the time of death of the Testator and survived for any survival period required by the Will, the beneficiary would be entitled to the bequest. If the... View More

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