What happens if there is a problem with Probate?

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In Pennsylvania probate is a simple process.  Your attorney will prepare a Petition for Probate and an Estate Information sheet in most counties but in some, like Philadelphia, your attorney must pre-register with the Register of Wills.  The main function of the Register of Wills is to ascertain the correct party to administer the Estate.  If the decedent died with a Will the Register will examine the Will, have the Witnesses sign affidavits if the Will is not self proving and swear in the Executor or Executors.  If the decedent died without a Will the persons that will inherit under the Intestate Laws have the right to be appointed Administrator.  The Register could ask those who want to serve to provide proof of relationship, usually a birth Certificate.  If there is more than 1 party who is named in the Will as Executor or there are more than 1 beneficiary who could serve as Administrator and only 1 of those wants to serve the party who does not wish tom serve must sign a Renunciation before  notary.  Probate in Pennsylvania is usually a simple process and, with the aid of an experienced attorney, it should be completed within an hour.


There are situations where more than 1 person eligible to serve cannot agree or there are questions of the validity of a Will.  This will result in litigation before the Register of Wills.  The Register will not interpret clauses in a Will which may be ambivalent but will only determine if the Weill is valid and the person or persons name in the Will are qualified to serve.  In a case where there is no Will but more than 1 of the Intestate heirs want to serve without the other the Register will determine if one is more qualified to serve.  If the Register finds there is so much animosity between the parties that they neither can serve he will name a neutral party to serve.  The neutral party will retain an attorney to represent him or her, both charging fees.  A contest is commenced either by filing petition for Citation (similar to a complaint in civil court) and the Respondent will be given time to file an answer.  If there is a contest then a hearing will be scheduled before an Assistant Register who will hear evidence and make a determination.  If there is a question of the validity of a Will a party opposing the probate will file a Cavaet requesting the Register not probate the Will.  That will be followed by a hearing similar to the other forms of contest.  Any party can appeal the Register’s decision to the Orphan’s Court division of the Court of Common Pleas.


Although probate is a simple process in most cases it is important that a party be represented by a qualified attorney.  Decisions regarding the information on the Petition for Probate will determine the fee charged by the Register of Wills.  If the Decedent died without a Will and the Administrator does not reside in Pennsylvania a bond must be filed with the Register of Wills which your attorney can arrange to be done at probate.

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