Our Probate Attorneys help Executors and Administrators close out and settle estates as efficiently and quickly as possible. Because we focus only on Estate matters, clients seek out our services throughout Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Wherever your location, our Probate Lawyers make the process easy for you.
We are flexible. We have a Probate Lawyer who can help you with one or two issues, or we can take on the entire probate process. At our firm, a Probate Attorney is ready to help. We have a whole department of Probate Attorneys. Very few practices can provide you that depth of experience. Estate Administration is what we do!
We have an experienced Estate Administration Lawyer ready to help you with any task, but Personal Representatives and Executors will most often have us help with the following:
Here are some questions Clients, Executors, and Personal Representatives ask:
Probate is the process whereby the State recognizes a person’s death and appoints an individual or entity with power and responsibility to gather the deceased’s assets, pay creditors and then distribute the remaining assets to rightful heirs. If the person had a Will, Probate begins with filing the Will. The State then officially recognizes the Executor or Personal Representative. If there is no Will, Probate begins with appointing the estate’s Administrator.
Several techniques exist to avoid probate, including Revocable Living Trusts. Many people error in sacrificing Asset Protection when avoiding probate. Many methods of probate avoidance, such as joint ownership, TOD and beneficiary designations expose inheritances to creditor claims. Further, these assets are unprotected should your child divorce. Saving a few dollars in Probate fees can result in losing everything. The “Pennywise and Pound Foolish” analogy is especially apt in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where probate fees are low. While these same techniques save significant sums in New York, California, and Florida, they have small savings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Before taking any steps, consult with an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer, so you understand all the pros and cons.
The best defense is a good offense. When you have reason to believe your family will not get along at your death, work with a good Estate Planning Lawyer to craft an Estate Plan anticipating a dispute. Make wise Trustee and Executor choices and, if possible, talk to your family while you are still alive. In anticipation of a dispute, consult with a firm focused on Estate Litigation. Only a firm that understands Estate Litigation can properly help plan to avoid Estate Litigation.
At your death, an estate tax ID replaces your social security number. Your assets now belong to the estate. Unless distributed to the heirs, the estate must pay federal and state income taxes if its assets create income. There are specific tax returns created for estate Federal and State income tax reporting.
Upon death, a person’s property is first used to pay for probate and funeral expenses followed by debt payment. All debts must be first satisfied before assets are distributed to heirs. Otherwise, the Executor might become personally liable to creditors.
Secured Debts, such as home loans or auto loans, can be paid but some lenders are willing to negotiate. They may allow an heir to take the property subject to the loans.
What happens if you owe more than you own? In general, people cannot inherit another person’s debts. If there is not enough cash to pay your debts, then all property will be sold to pay the debts, and no one will inherit anything.
Example: Mr. Jones died a Philadelphia resident. His son hired a Philadelphia Probate Lawyer to help him file the Will and secure his father’s bank accounts. These funds are first used to reimburse Son for filing fees, attorneys fees, and funeral expenses. To protect son from personal liability Mr. Jones’ credit card debts must be paid before any distributions to the heirs.
Example: Ms. Smith died a Cherry Hill, New Jersey resident. Her daughter hires a Camden County Probate Attorney to help her file the Will. They assist Daughter in gathering her mother’s assets. Ms. Smith’s car has a secured loan. Daughter would like the auto but does not want to pay off the loan. It is possible to negotiate with the mortgage company to have Daughter make the payments on the current loan. The lender is not obligated to agree.
Example: Mr. Jacobs died a Wayne, Pennsylvania resident. His $400,000 estate is subject to creditors’ claims totaling $800,000. Mr. Jacobs’ estate is insolvent. The executor must apply the $400,000 towards the debts, and his children inherit nothing.
If a credit card is only in your name, at your death no one is eligible to use the card. The amount owed is an estate debt. Your Executor will address this debt along with any other debts you may have.
Probate lasts until all creditor claims are addressed and asset distributed. Your most persistent creditor is the IRS. Your executor must file your final tax return and wait for clearance. If you die in May, your executor will file your final return in April of the following year. Further, real estate must be sold and investments liquidated. So, the time it will take to probate your estate will depend on when you die, your creditors and your assets. Most estates take about one year to complete.
We do. Most firms have one paralegal who handles a small amount of Estate Administration. We have a whole department. Probate is what we do, let us put our experience to work for you.
In general, we bill hourly for our services rather than taking a percentage. If we do work, you pay us, but if the task is an easy one, then there is no reason to pay us a hefty fee. Our detailed, comprehensive monthly bills explain what you are paying for. We have been Probate Lawyers for over 20 years. Representing Executors isn’t something that we do part-time, this is what we do! For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on estate matters. This experience allows us to help you understand the process. We make it easy for you to understand.
We listen and provide our experience where you need it.
Many firms handle a few Probate matters on a part-time basis. Inexperience is not cost effective. Providing Probate representation is what we do, our experience allows us to focus quickly on the issues that matter. Our focus helps us arrive at the most cost efficient plan. We find the solution to your problem while the others are just warming up.
If you are going to serve as an Executor, Personal Representative or Administrator then you have taken on a level of personal liability. You are a fiduciary with a duty to the Beneficiary. You can be made to correct any mistake by using your money. Further, any beneficiary has the right to bring you before a judge to explain every action and every expense. This threat of personal liability is why you have the legal right to retain a lawyer to represent you. The estate pays the bill, but the estate reaps the benefit of efficiency and reduced chance of litigation.
You are not expected to know how to manage every issue that arises. But you are liable if you act upon something you don’t understand when you simply had to hire a professional to assist you. If you fail to retain help and venture out on your own, then you are responsible for your mistakes. Should your error reduce the estate or trust, you are expected to use your funds to repair the damage. If you fail to rectify your error voluntarily, a Beneficiary can force you to explain yourself to a judge. The judge then can Surcharge you. If you are not an expert Personal Representative, why risk a mistake? Protect yourself; the system allows you to use the estate funds to hire an experienced Probate Attorney.
Banks and Trust Companies serve as professional Executors and Personal Representatives. They regularly hire either in-house lawyers or retain Probate Attorneys such as our firm. If professionals refuse to provide services without a Probate Lawyer, why would a non-professional expose themselves to liability and go it alone?
If you have any questions about Probate or any other estate administration topics, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation. For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.