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Klenk Law

Philadelphia Probate Attorneys

Philadelphia Probate Attorneys

Our Philadelphia probate attorneys at Klenk Law can assist you in working through the sometimes complicated probate process.  This is not your area of expertise, and you have other things to do.  Let us take care of the work, and the cost is deductible against the Inheritance Tax.

An executor holds a great responsibility when they take on the role of carrying out someone’s final wishes. It’s only natural that executors and beneficiaries may be curious about the probate process and its impact on the estate and, as a result, are sure to have many questions.  

What is probate?

When a person passes away, the estate passes through a process called probate. The process involves reviewing the will and ensuring that it is valid. This is a way of ensuring that the will is carried out as intended. Probate is often a feared process that many are hoping to avoid. The process can be complicated and time-consuming if proper planning has not gone into creating a will. Additionally, family tensions can arise.  Sometimes people dispute the will’s validity.  The process can become rife with tension and become rather costly. 

Is probate a public process?

Yes, probate is a public process.  This means records can be accessed to show the estate’s value and how it was divided. During your lifetime, you can arrange things, so your estate remains private. This is a primary reason many choose to consult with a Pennsylvania probate lawyer regarding ensuring a more private process. One of the best ways to avoid passing the entire estate through probate is by considering a living trust. Assets can be transferred into a living trust while you are still living. Keep in mind that you will still have the ability to control these assets. Once you pass away, the living trust will not have to pass through probate and passed directly to the beneficiary. 

What happens if a person passes away without a will?

When a person passes away without a will in place, they have died intestate. Should this occur, Pennsylvania state laws will dictate how your assets and property are distributed. The court will appoint an administrator to oversee your estate. The administrator distributes assets to beneficiaries and resolves the estate. 

If my loved one had a will, is probate necessary?

Filing the will is necessary to secure assets in the deceased’s name without beneficiary designations. In that case, our Philadelphia probate attorneys share that, yes, probate is still required. 

What are the executor’s responsibilities?

An executor plays an essential role in managing the probate process. The executor’s responsibilities include initiating the probate process, distributing property to beneficiaries, paying estate taxes and debts, managing any conflict or legal issues, and more. 

However, as executor you have responsibilities too. You have to locate the will, whether it’s with an attorney or in a safety box. You have to retain an attorney, if you need one. Not every estate requires one but it can save a lot of stress.

You want to then identify and protect assets that the deceased person left behind. This could be jewelry, other valuables, payments on real estate and other tangibles. This differs depending on the estate. You want to review the will and talk to the beneficiaries. You also have to ensure the will is the “final” will and not a copy that’s outdated.

You want to notify the beneficiaries, and other appropriate parties such as creditors. Creditors need to be notified so that you can show up to court with death certificates and other paperwork—as well as send out death notices to appropriate parties, like the IRS and Social Security, etc.

You, as executor, will continue to pay bills such as utility, mortgage and other such bills of similar nature. This is done until the real estate is sold or given to whoever inherited it. You also distribute the assets, according to the deceased person’s wishes. You’ve got to distribute those assets to benefices, and it could be complicated, other times not so complex.

Filling out papers to close the estate is your job too, after all other tasks have been completed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you should look into a probate lawyer, especially if you’re handling a large estate with a lot of assets. A probate lawyer is going to know the best way to handle each step in the probate process, and that should put your mind at ease. It can also help when handling beneficiaries who aren’t happy with what they received from the decedent.

A probate lawyer is the same thing as an estate attorney, and can be involved in a variety of ways, even helping the executor with their responsibilities. How this lawyer is involved depends heavily on the type of estate they’re managing. Your probate lawyer will collect proceeds from life insurance policies, identify and secure estate assets, obtain appraisals for the decedent’s property, assist in the payment of bills and debts. They assist in collecting this information so that they can see how much money is left over after.

Your lawyer will also prepare and file documents to the probate court—so you don’t have to. They’ll determine if there’s any estate or inheritance taxes due, and ensure those debts are satisfied. They also resolve income tax issues, manage the checking account for the estate, transfer assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries and make the final disbursements of assets after all bills and taxes are paid.

This type of lawyer’s sole purpose is to ensure the appropriate taxes, debts and other such charges are paid in full before the family gets the money. They also focus on ensuring the money goes to who it was supposed to—as well as property that the decedent may have left behind.

How long does probate take?

When a loved one has passed away, chances are everyone will want the process to resolve as quickly as possible. However, determining how long the process will take depends on a variety of factors. In most cases, probate should take anywhere from a few months to a year. Unfortunately, when complications arise, or the validity of a will is challenged, the process may take years.

Going Through the Probate Process steps.

When you are the executor, you may be wondering what the probate process is like. You will likely need to walk through certain steps. Our attorneys can help you every step of the way if you are unfamiliar with the process or have questions. Would you like to learn more about the probate process and what it typically looks like? Reach out to us now. 

Probate Process Steps

Step One: File the petition.

When you want to begin the probate process, you will need to file a petition. This means you are officially taking on the executor’s role, and you will be supplying a will that the decedent created. 

Step Two: Notify important parties.

When you begin the probate process, you will notify people that the estate is in probate. People you should notify are heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. 

Step Three: Collect the assets.

The decedent likely listed their assets in the will. Some types of assets could be:

  • Real estate
  • Checking and Savings accounts
  • Personal valuable collections
  • Retirement accounts

When you inventory these assets, you will also need to have them appraised. Once this is completed, you can show them to the court. 

Step Four: Take care of the bills.

You will want to look at anything the decedent still owes regarding their estate or any other debts. You can work with your probate attorneys in Philadelphia to help you find any unpaid bills or debts so that you can make their accounts current. 

Step Five: Distribution and closing the estate.

Finally, you will want to distribute the remaining estate assets according to the will’s terms.  Further, you can then work with the court to close the estate. Once you do this, you are finished in your role of being an executor. 

We understand that it is a huge burden to take on when you have been listed as an executor of someone’s estate. However, when you have a trusted attorney by your side, you know you will not miss any small details. If you are interested in working with a member of our team, give us a call now. 

Is There Any Reason to Avoid the Probate Process?

Not everyone wants to go through the probate process. If you believe this is not right for your estate, our Philadelphia probate attorneys can help. There are ways to avoid the probate process. The alternative options to avoid probate are through gifting your assets before your death, placing them into a trust, creating a family limited partnership, or naming beneficiaries on certain assets (i.e., bank accounts, retirement accounts, titles, etc.). There are benefits to each of these methods, as well as some disadvantages. If you are unsure whether you want your heirs to pass through probate, please consider these reasons to avoid the process. 

Your Named Beneficiaries Can Skip Probate Court

Any assets held in a will must pass through probate. This is very time consuming and costly. To avoid this step, assets can be placed into a trust or gifted.

Assets May Be Passed to Beneficiaries Sooner

Sometimes heirs are relying on their inheritance. The probate process is not always fast and could take months or years before assets are distributed.  

Your Beneficiaries Might Receive More

Probate is not free. If there are tax issues, disputes, or Will challenges, the cost can increase. 

The Estate Remains Private

Probate is a public process. Whatever is contained in a Living Will can be accessed by the public. In other words, anyone can find out who inherited what and how much. They can also read about any disputes, challenges, or other matters that may not be appropriate for the public eye. When you have trust, everything is private. If you have any privacy concerns, you should speak with our Philadelphia probate lawyers about other options. 

The Risk of a Dispute is Less

A Will can be contested by anyone who feels like they have a right to the estates’ assets. If they can convince a judge that this is true, your heirs could lose some of their inheritance. By drafting a Trust, you reduce the risk of a dispute or challenge.

If you are unsure whether or not you want your heirs to go through the probate process or have other concerns, please call Klenk Law. We will discuss your current situation and what options are most practical.

Speak with Us Now

The probate process doesn’t have to be as feared as it often is. Klenk Law can help families to plan their estates and manage each step in the probate process. Don’t hesitate to get started by contacting our Philadelphia probate attorneys. 

Common Myths About Probate

Probate has been around for many years, but it still gets a bad name. Many people want to avoid the probate process because they may have heard so many negative things about it. However, not everything you may hear is true. Here are some common myths about probate:

  • It Often Takes Years to Probate an Estate:

One of the most common reasons why some people try to avoid probate is that they are afraid it will take multiple years to complete. They’ve already been through so much and do not want to spend that much time in court. The good news is that probate often doesn’t take that long. In fact, it often is finished within a year. However, you should keep in mind that certain factors can slow down the process. For example, if a family member does not believe he or she is being treated fairly and contests the will, it can prolong the probate process. Having a very large estate that owes both federal or state tax can also extend the process.

  • It Is Very Expensive:

Another worry many people may have about probate is that the costs will eat up the assets in the estate. Luckily, this is not true. In most cases, it just costs a few hundred dollars to probate an estate. However, if you hire an attorney who charges high fees or the estate is contested, it can get more expensive.

  • If There Is a Will, You Can Skip Probate:

Many people assume that as long as here is a valid will in place, they do not have to go through the probate process. However, as Philadelphia, PA probate attorneys can confirm, you will still likely have to go through probate. The process is what proves a will is valid. By going through the process, you might find out that the will was invalid due to fraud.

  • Not all lawyers specialize in the same fields. If you have to go through the probate process, you need experienced Philadelphia, PA probate attorneys on your side. A skilled attorney will know all the local probate law and make sure they are fired. He or she will also be there to offer support and answer all of your questions. If you work with a reputable attorney, you will have peace of mind.

Don’t hesitate to get started by contacting our Philadelphia probate attorneys. 

Common Probate Mistakes

If you are the executor of a family member’s estate, you will have to initiate the probate process. Here are some common probate mistakes you need to avoid.

  • Delaying the Process: After a loved one has passed away, it is understandable that you don’t want to start the probate process right away. You need time to properly grieve for your loss. However, that does not mean you should put off the process for too long. Doing so can increase taxes and make the heirs inpatient. To avoid any complications, start the probate process after you have properly grieved.
  • Not Communicating with Beneficiaries: The beneficiaries deserve to be informed about the probate process. Otherwise, they could become angry or suspicious. These beneficiaries are relying on you to tell them what is going on with the estate. It is a good idea to get in touch with the beneficiaries at least once every couple of weeks, even if you don’t have any new updates. They will appreciate that you thought of them. Ask them if they prefer to be contacted by phone or email.
  • Failing to Properly Manage Assets: As an executor, it is your responsibility to take care of the deceased’s assets. For example, if the deceased owned a house, it is up to you to pay the utilities and keep up with repairs. If there are financial accounts, you may just have to close them.
  • Not Hiring Legal Assistance: It is not recommended to go through the probate process without professional help. Too many complexities can occur. You don’t want to deal with all that stress when you are still mourning the loss of a loved one. That is why you should hire experienced Philadelphia probate attorneys as soon as possible. They can guide you through the entire probate process and prevent you from making costly mistakes. You will avoid a lot of headaches by hiring legal help from the beginning.
  • Distributing Assets Too Soon: One of your most important tasks as an executor is to distribute the deceased’s assets to the designated beneficiaries. However, you should not do so too soon. You first have to make sure the deceased’s creditors are paid. If you distribute assets before all the creditors are paid, you could be held liable. Do not give into the beneficiaries’ pressure to give them their inheritances at an earlier date.

What Our clients are saying

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Peter Klenk ESQ is a thoughtful and capable attorney who we work with on estate planning issues. His firm recently provided us with new Wills, Power of Attorneys and our instructions regarding major health issues. These documents are important for estate and life planning. Peter and his team are masters in the complexities of Estate Law. We highly recommend Peter and his Associates to provide thoughtful advice and outstanding work on these complex issues of the law. Make sure your estate planning documents are up to date, and Peter can be relied on to do an excellent job. Well done Peter!

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Always professional and very responsive. Everyone on the staff that I have worked with. I look forward to continuing our relationship.

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Affable...yet surprisingly cerebral estate planning atty. High marks all the way around.

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Very knowledgeable! Peter Klenk always has a thorough answer, and the associates have more experience than you'll find at most firms. They really only do estate work.

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Peter was excellent. He explained everything very clearly and is super friendly. My wife and I originally tried using a lawyer through group legal coverage, but unfortunately the old adage - "you get what you pay for" - applied to the other lawyer, and we decided to go with a real professional.

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