Pennsylvania Probate | Inheritance Advances in Pennsylvania
Probate Process in Pennsylvania
Upon the death of a Pennsylvanian resident, Pennsylvania probate law dictates the distribution of all assets and belongings left behind. They first appoint a representative, also called an executor, to be in charge of the estate. The executor also collects and creates a list of all assets and monetary accounts, oversees all outstanding debts to ensure they are paid off and determines whether any existing wills are valid. Finally, when probate courts are satisfied that an heir has completed all required steps, the rightful heirs receive their inheritance funds.
Is Probate Required in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law typically requires probate for most estates. However, many people find ways to avoid the probate process. Losing a loved one is difficult enough, so taking steps like applying for an inheritance advance or establishing a living trust can help you receive your inheritance without waiting for the lengthy probate process.
Pennsylvania probate law allows for a more simplified process for small estates. Those that contain less than $50,000 in assets qualify for the simplified process. The $50,000 asset limit does not include funeral funds or real estate.
How Long Does Probate Take in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania probate process is lengthy. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the probate in Pennsylvania could take anywhere from nine months to three years. An estate’s size, the number of beneficiaries, the executor’s abilities and various court timelines impact how long it takes to settle an estate in Pennsylvania. Many courts have also chosen to go remote because of the pandemic, causing the process to take even longer. If there’s a dispute, probate can also take more time to complete.
How Do You Avoid Probate in Pennsylvania?
The probate process can be long, stressful and expensive. After the death of a loved one, the family may have to deal with unexpected expenses such as property taxes, mortgage payments and home upkeep and maintenance costs. Therefore, many people desire to avoid probate to receive their inheritance faster.
An heir can include the estate in a living trust with named beneficiaries to avoid Probate in Pennsylvania. Further, heirs can exclude some assets. Assets that have named beneficiaries allow heirs to bypass probate and claim ownership. Examples of such assets include:
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Real estate
- Joint-owned assets
- Payable on death designations
- Transfer on death items
An heir must also establish a successor trustee for when they pass away and establish ownership into the trust. The trust then controls these assets, and the successor trustee can avoid the probate process.
How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania probate law has no defined deadline for filing for probate after a loved one’s death. However, there are some specific benchmarks an heir should be aware of:
- Three months after death: Three months after a descendant’s death, an heir should notify others, including banks, insurance companies and employers. Begin assessing the descendant’s assets and liabilities and notify any beneficiaries. Three months is also the deadline for receiving a 5% discount on inheritance taxes.
- Six months: Within six months of a loved one’s death, an heir should estimate how much money is required for paying debts and taxes. An heir should also document an estate’s inventory with the Register of Wills, or the official who determines whether a will is valid.
- Nine months: Pennsylvania inheritance tax returns are due within nine months of someone’s death.
What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has some of the strictest laws in the U.S. for what constitutes a valid will, and the probate process determines whether a will is valid. Anyone over the age of 18 years old and who has the mental capacity to understand what they own and their heirs can write a will. Having a will is important, as the state will determine who a descendant’s heirs are if they die without a will.
Two minimum witnesses must be present to sign. A will must include:
- An estate executor, or the person responsible for ensuring your wishes are met and your debt is paid off
- Heirs for different assets
- Any additional beneficiaries in case the original ones you selected precede you in death
- Guardians for any children or pets
It’s also a good idea to include a self-proving affidavit in your will, a sworn statement that affirms the will’s validity. Typically, Pennsylvania probate law requires that a witness appears at court or provides a sworn statement to attest to the validity of a will. A self-proving affidavit can expedite the Pennsylvania probate process, as your witnesses can skip appearing at court.
Under Pennsylvania probate law, the state will typically decide your assets will go to your closest relatives. These laws are called intestate succession laws and typically cover assets that the descendant solely owned. Assets that don’t go through your will are also not impacted by intestate succession laws.
Who your assets go to depends on which closest family members are still alive when you die. For example, if you have:
- Children and no spouse: Your children inherit your assets.
- A spouse and no children or parents: Your spouse inherits all your assets.
- A spouse and children from you and that person: Your spouse will inherit the first $30,000 of your assets covered by intestate succession laws in addition to half of that balance. Your children will receive all other assets.
- A spouse and children from you and another person: Your spouse will inherit half of your assets included in interstate laws. Your children will receive everything else.
- A spouse and parents: Just like when you have a spouse and children with that spouse, your spouse will inherit the first $30,000 of interstate assets plus half that balance if a spouse and parents outlive you. However, your parents will only inherit all other assets covered under intestate laws.
- Siblings but no spouse, children or parents: Your siblings will inherit all your assets.
You must include any legally married spouse in your inheritance, regardless of whether you’re separated.
Does Pennsylvania Have an Inheritance or Estate Tax?
A state collects inheritance tax on the assets an heir inherits. With an inheritance tax, the heir is responsible for paying the state. It differs from an estate tax in that the latter is a tax on a deceased person’s estate before beneficiaries can receive assets. An executor files this tax, paying it out of the estate’s funds. Because an heir is responsible for paying inheritance tax, the beneficiaries should know the inheritance tax form they need to file.
Pennsylvania is one of only six states that has an inheritance tax. The other states that have an inheritance tax include Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Maryland, which is the only state with both an inheritance and estate tax.
Inheritance taxes must be paid within nine months of a descendant’s death. However, an heir can apply for an extension. Families can also receive a 5% discount if they pay the tax within three months of a descendant’s death.
Pennsylvania inheritance law specifies four different rates:
- 0%: Transfers to a spouse, parent from a child younger than age 21 or a minor younger than 21
- 4.5%: Transfers to lineal heirs and direct descendants
- 12%: Transfers to siblings
- 15%: Transfers to other heirs excluding charities, tax-exempt government institutions and other exempt institutions
Access Your Inheritance in Pennsylvania Immediately
During the lengthy Pennsylvania probate process, heirs cannot access the money their loved one meant for them to have. However, with an inheritance advance from Inheritance Funding Company, Inc., you can access your inheritance right away through a fast and easy process.
Dealing with the grief of losing a loved one is stressful enough. You shouldn’t have to worry about bills, car payments or home repairs during this time. An inheritance advance will let you decide how much of your inheritance you’d like to receive immediately, and you can use the money however you’d like. An inheritance advance is also not a loan — once you receive your money, there’s no need to pay us back and no interest rate.
With decades of experience and over $200 million advanced to heirs in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., we have the expertise and size to help you get your money in as little as 24 hours. Our friendly staff can give you a free, no-obligation consultation, walking you through the Pennsylvania probate process and answering any questions you may have.
Your loved one desired that you inherit their assets after their death. Contact Inheritance Funding today to access what’s yours.