Rebecca A. Hobbs, Esq., CELA, is an associate attorney with the law firm O’Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, P.C. She is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Ms. Hobbs focuses her practice in elder law, special needs planning, estate planning, estate and trust administration, and Veteran’s benefits. Ms. Hobbs is accredited as a United States Veterans Administration Attorney. She is also a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA). She is an active member of the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA). She serves on the PBA Charitable Organizations Committee and the PBA Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities Committee. She is also a graduate of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2013-2014. As an elder law attorney Ms. Hobbs is able to provide exceptional legal guidance while also understanding the sensitivity and compassion needed for assisting families in a time of crisis. Ms. Hobbs resides in Phoenixville with her husband and two children.

Phone: 610-917-9347
Fax: 610-917-9348
Email: rhobbs@owmlaw.com

Click the Facebook link and “Like” us on Facebook for current OWM news and information.

The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.

The Basics of Pennsylvania Estate Administration

A common question that I hear from many of my estate planning clients is “what is probate” and “how do I make sure my family doesn’t have to probate my estate.” Unfortunately, there is a lot of misconception with regard to the probate process. First, it is important to know that estate planning can help to avoid many of the pitfalls of estate administration. A well-crafted estate plan is key to a conflict free estate administration.

The probate process varies based on whether a decedent passes away with a Last Will and Testament or without. If a decedent dies having executed a valid will that was in existence at the time of his death, he is said to have died "testate." His probate estate is distributed according to his will. If a decedent dies without a will, he is said to have died "intestate." His probate estate is distributed to his heirs according to Pennsylvania's intestacy laws. Additionally, not all estates require probate. Whether an estate requires to be probated depends on the assets that the decedent owned at the time of his death.

Where an estate does require probate, the first step in the estate administration is to petition the register of wills for letters of testamentary, where the decedent had a will, or letters of administration, where the decedent did not have a will. This process of filing the petition with the register of wills in the county of the decedent’s last domicile is referred to as probating. If the decedent had a will, the original will must be submitted at the time the petition is filed. If the decedent did not have a will, the petition must contain information on the heirs of the decedent (next-of-kin).

Once the petition for probate is filed and the register of wills has issued letters of testamentary or letters of administration, the personal representative (Executor or Administrator) has many duties to fulfill. It is important for the personal representative to faithfully carry out these duties; failure to do so may result in personal liability of the personal representative. The duties of the personal representative include, but are not limited to the following:

1. Advertising the estate in a newspaper of general circulation and a legal reporter;

2. Giving notice to beneficiaries or the heirs;

3. Obtaining an EIN for the estate;

4. Opening estate checking account;

5. Liquidation and transfer of the estate assets;

6. Confirmation and payment of the debts of the decedent – it is important for the personal representative to identify and pay the debts of the decedent as part of the administration of the estate. One instance where the personal representative may have personal liability is if funds are distributed to heirs in an estate prior to the payment of all creditors. If there are insufficient assets available to pay the creditors once the distribution has been made, the personal representative may be personally liable to pay an amount equal to the amount disbursed by the personal representative.

7. Filing of Tax returns, including the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return, and payment of tax;

8. Preparation of a First and Final Account and the distribution of the Estate in accordance with decedent’s will or if no will, in accordance with the intestacy law of Pennsylvania.

Because of the personal liability and the many duties of a personal representative, it is important that the personal representative seek the advice of a knowledgeable estate and trust attorney that can ensure that the personal representative is fulfilling their legal responsibilities and therefore avoiding personal liability. At OWM Law, we have knowledgeable and experienced estate and trust attorneys that would be happy to assist you. Please call O’Donnell, Weiss and Mattei P.C. to schedule an estate or trust administration appointment today at 610-323-2800 or email me at rhobbs@owmlaw.com. Also, please watch OWM's December 2016 Legal Talk program regarding Death and Its Implications on our website here.

Upcoming Events

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., speaking at Chestnut Knoll, 120 W. 5th St., Boyertown, PA 19512, on 1/24/17 at 2:00 p.m. regarding Wills and Estate Planning (contact Jodie Daniels at jdaniels@chestnutknoll.com or at 610-816-0257).

David A. Megay, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars at Owen J. Roberts Middle School, Pottstown, PA, on 3/28/17 6:30p.m.-8:30 p.m. entitled "Starting and Operating Your Own Business" and on 4/25/17 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. entitled “Buying and Selling Real Estate in PA” (contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).

Watch Legal Talk, brought to you by OWM, on PCTV, Tuesdays at 8:30 on Channel 28, and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 98, or on our website here.

Read Legal Ease every first and third Sunday in the Pottstown Mercury.

O'Donnell,Weiss & Mattei, P.C.

41 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
Fax: 610-323-2845

347 Bridge Street, Suite 200
Phoenixville, PA 19460
Fax: 610-917-9348