April 7th, 2024

Does an Executor of an Estate Need an Attorney in Pennsylvania?

Being a personal representative or executor of an estate in Pennsylvania comes with many responsibilities. At Gross McGinley, LLP, our probate and estate administration attorneys help clients in Pennsylvania navigate estate administration and help ensure all their legal bases are covered throughout the process.

What Is an Executor of an Estate?

Also known as a personal representative in Pennsylvania, the executor of an estate is responsible for managing and distributing a deceased person’s assets and ensuring their final wishes are carried out according to their Will, if they have one. Although hiring an attorney isn’t required in Pennsylvania, estate administration and probate can present challenges that an experienced lawyer can help you navigate or avoid.

What Does an Estate Executor Do?

An estate executor’s duties include various tasks, including handling the probate process. The executor of an estate must gather the deceased person’s last Will and testament and other important documents, such as life insurance policies. The Will must be filed with the Register of Wills in the county where the deceased person resided. If there is no Will, the court will appoint an estate administrator.

Other estate executor duties include:

  • Locating and protecting the estate’s assets;
  • Inventory and valuation of assets;
  • Finding and notifying heirs;
  • Notifying creditors;
  • Paying the deceased person’s outstanding debts and bills;
  • Preparing a full accounting of the estate’s finances; and
  • Filing and paying taxes on behalf of the estate.

In Pennsylvania, the Orphans’ Court oversees probate and estate administration. There are strict procedures, rules, and deadlines for performing certain duties and filing documents with the court. Errors can delay the probate process or lead to legal disputes. Hiring a probate lawyer can help keep the process running smoothly and deal with any hiccups along the way.

How a Probate Lawyer Can Help

The legal and procedural elements of estate administration can be complex and confusing. An experienced probate administration attorney provides the executor of the estate with valuable guidance and assists with tasks such as notifying and negotiating with creditors and handling any disputes that may arise.

Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries

A potential area of contention in estate administration is the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. If disagreements regarding the interpretation of the Will or distribution of property arise, a probate lawyer can help resolve them and protect the best interests of the estate. This makes it easier for an estate executor to fulfill their duty to distibute assets according to the deceased person’s wishes or the laws of intestate succession in Pennsylvania.

Estate Litigation

If a disgruntled beneficiary or creditor initiates litigation, it’s crucial to consult an attorney. Challenges to the validity of the Will or allegations of mismanagement or wrongdoing by the executor of the estate are stressful to deal with and come with many legal pitfalls. Effective legal representation is vital to protect the estate executor’s interests and carry out the deceased’s wishes.

Managing Assets

Practical matters such as selling real estate and other assets to pay debts and taxes also can be overwhelming. Various legal and financial factors are involved in these processes. A probate attorney can help you obtain appraisals, draft and negotiate real estate sales contracts, and provide advice on the best way to carry out these processes while complying with federal and state tax laws. Having an estate litigation attorney assist with these matters helps to ensure the executor is properly fulfilling their fiduciary duties to the estate and beneficiaries. 

Taxes and Accounting

In Pennsylvania, inheritance tax returns are due within nine (9) months of the person’s death. If paid within three (3) months of the death, a five percent (5%) discount is offered. An estate administration attorney can assist you with filing this tax return and any others that may be required. An attorney will also can help with the final accounting of the estate that is submitted to the court.

Hiring a Probate Attorney Can Expedite the Estate Administration Process

When disputes arise or the executor of an estate doesn’t perform their duties properly, it can take years to settle an estate. Hiring an experienced probate attorney helps take some of the weight off your shoulders and ensures that all important deadlines and requirements are met.

At Gross McGinley, LLP, our estate planning and probate lawyers provide exceptional legal services you can trust. For more than 40 years, we’ve offered forward-thinking legal representation to clients in Pennsylvania. Our values of collaboration, teamwork, respect, compassion, and desire for continuous improvement have helped us build a solid reputation with our clients and the legal community.

Contact an Experienced Probate Lawyer in Pennsylvania

If you’re the executor of a Will or need assistance with other estate administration matters, Jacob Oldaker and the team at Gross McGinley, LLP, is here for you. To schedule a consultation with a Pennsylvania probate attorney, contact us or call 610-820-5450. We provide a wide range of legal services, including criminal defense, family law, business law, litigation, estate planning, business and employment law, real estate, and more.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.