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Probating small estates in Pennsylvania

Those who have recently lost a loved one in Cranberry Township may be preparing themselves for the process that most assume to automatically follow: probate. Many hear investment and estate planning experts extol the wisdom of planning to avoid probate (as its costs are paid for from the estate’s assets). Yet even with this advice in place, most of those party to an estate likely resign themselves to the idea that the local probate court will be involved in their cases in some way.

Yet is that always the case? Probate courts typically have a heavy caseload to handle, and local governments do not want to see a decedent’s assets greatly diminished due to legal costs. Thus, legislation has been enacted that allows smaller estates to bypass the probate process altogether.

According to Section 3102 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, estate for which the gross value of their property does not exceed $50,000 do not need to be probated. An interested party to the estate can petition the court of the county in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death to distribute the personal property of the estate without needing to submit the will governing it to probate or having letters of appointment issued. This can be down without the need to have the estate formally appraised.

Just how likely is it that one’s estate can skip probate? Information shared by the Survey of Consumer Finance shows that the median inheritance in America was only $69,000. This figure implies that it may indeed be possible that one’s estate can avoid being probated. Those who seek this option should know, however, that if their actions are later proven to be improper, the estate’s distribution can be revoked and they may be forced to pay restitution.


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