We are delighted to announce that our physical office is re-opening to our existing and new clients. To provide safety to both our clients and staff, we are adapting the CDC guidelines for social distancing while we are in the yellow phase. Rest assured, that we have and will continue to regularly clean all areas of the office especially the high-traffic areas. All attorneys and staff will have their temperature taken daily and will be wearing masks when interacting with clients. Any attorneys and staff with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will work remotely. They will then be required to follow CDCrecommended steps, including not returning to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.

As the health and safety of our clients and their families is our top priority, we are asking that our clients follow the procedures below during the yellow phase:

  1. Upon entering the building, we ask that all persons wash their hands or hand-sanitize. We will be providing access to soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
  2. We will also be taking temperatures with non-contact thermometers upon entering the office.
  3. Our office is set-up to comply with social distancing of six feet. In the conference and mediation rooms we are asking that each person sit a minimum of one chair apart from attorneys and/or staff at all times.
  4. Masks are available and will be provided open request.
  5. Teleconferences Zoom meetings, and FaceTime are available in lieu of inperson meetings if requested.
  6. We will continue to have the drop-box available for delivery of documents.

In the event that anyone is sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you reschedule your appointment or utilize the electronic forums listed above.

As each county determines the procedures that will be followed, please ask your attorney of the specific procedures regarding the county in which your case in pending.

Please note that we will also continue to accommodate the needs of new clients, who are welcome, and as always we encourage and appreciate referrals. During this uncertain and unprecedented time, please stay safe and remember that Sweeney Law Office, LLC will remain by your side for all of your family’s legal needs. We ask that you have patience during this challenging time.

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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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