MARK D. FREEMAN, ESQUIRE

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Be sure that your wishes are carried out

after you have departed this life.small logo

PROBATE - GETTING STARTED

While a person is living they have rights to their property. Once they have passed away, the government must grant another person, known as the personal representative of the estate, the authority to administer the estate. A personal representative is called an executor if there is a will that names the personal representative. A personal representative is known as an administrator if there is no will or if the person named in the will cannot serve. Normally, after a petition for letters is filed with the county register of wills, the register will issue "short certificates." A "short certificate" is a document that is issued by the register of wills that declares who has been appointed as the personal representative of the estate. Banks and other financial institutions will ask the personal representative for a "short certificate" before they will do anything the personal representative or the attorney for the estate asks. Probate is usually initiated through a petition to grant letters which is filed with the county register of wills.

The administrator of an estate must swear that they will administer the office of personal representative according to the law. This means that the personal representative must identify and pay creditors, pay any local, state and federal income taxes, pay any inheritance or other death taxes and, if there is anything left over, distribute the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries. For more information about taxes see Probate 101.

Personal Representatives can be personally liable for any distribution they make. When our law firm represents a personal representative we ensure that the personal representative is protected from creditors, government taxing entities and beneficiaries.

After opening probate at the register of wills, the estate must be advertised and beneficiaries notified of probate. The first milestone for an estate is usually three months after the date of death. The is the deadline to make a prepayment for inheritance tax which entitles the estate to a 5% credit.

For more information about probate see Probate 101.  If you are the executor named in a will, or if there is no will, to get started on estate administration, click here for our estate administration form. To get started on your estate plan click here for our estate planning questionnaire.

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The purpose of this site is to provide useful information about wills, estate planning and estate administration. It is not intended to provide legal advice.You should consult a competent estate planning and/or estate administration attorney before acting on any of the information contained on this site.