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 our services throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Wherever your location is, 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. Exceptionally, few practices can provide you with 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 has a Will, Probate begins with filing the Will. The State then officially recognizes the Executor or Personal Representative. Probate begins with appointing the estate’s Administrator if there is no Will.
Several techniques exist to avoid Probate, including Revocable Living Trusts. Many people make errors in sacrificing Asset Protection when avoiding Probate. Many probate avoidance methods, 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 conflict, consult with a firm focused on Estate Litigation. Only a firm that understands estate litigation can properly help plan to avoid it.
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. Specific tax returns are made for estate Federal and State income tax reporting.
Upon death, a person’s property is first used 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. Mr. Jones’ credit card debts must be paid before distributions to the heirs to protect the son from personal liability.
Example: Ms. Smith died a Cherry Hill, New Jersey resident. Her Daughter hired a Camden County Probate Attorney to help her file the Will. They assist the Daughter in gathering her mother’s assets. Ms. Smith’s car has a secured loan. The Daughter wants the auto but does not want to repay the loan. It is possible to negotiate with the mortgage company to have the 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 and any other obligations you may have.
Probate lasts until all creditor claims are addressed and assets 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 takes 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 easy, 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 we do part-time; this is what we do! Klenk Law has focused only on estate matters for more than two decades. 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 lets us 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 warming up.
You have taken on personal liability for errors if you serve as an Executor, Personal Representative, or Administrator. You are a fiduciary with a duty to the Beneficiary. The Judge can force you to correct mistakes 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 can consult with a professional to assist you. You are responsible for your mistakes if you fail to retain help and venture out independently. Should your error reduce the estate or trust, you must use your funds to repair the damage. If you fail to rectify your mistake 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 in-house lawyers or retain probate attorneys such as those of 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, please get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation. Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law for more than two decades. 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.
Peter Klenk is the founding member of Klenk Law, a seven attorney boutique estate planning law firm. We serve clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota and Florida. Peter Klenk received his Masters in Taxation LL.M. from NYU Law School and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School. He served his country in the Navy JAGC during Desert Storm. Easy to talk to, feel free to call Peter for an appointment. We will make the process as easy as possible!
"I worked for Peter Klenk for 4 wonderful years. I can’t speak highly enough of everyone at the firm. Everyone truly cares about their clients and has a strong sense of responsibility to get things done right. I would highly recommend Klenk Law!"
Peter Klenk is an extraordinary attorney with positive guidance and knowledge for all of your Trust and Estate needs. We have used him for over 20 years.
Peter and his staff handled all of our needs in a very professional and timely matter.
Peter Klenk & Associates is my go-to firm for estate planning and advice in probate and estate administration. Peter and his attorneys are top-notch and exceptionally responsive. Peter has the knack of being able to explain extremely complex tax and estate planning issues in a manner that clients are easily able to understand and comprehend allowing them to confidently make important decisions.
I'm totally satisfied with Klenk Law. Peter has a great legal mind with the personality of the guy next door.
Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.