How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate in PA?

When a person dies, it often falls to the family to take care of the estate and their personal assets. This can be an emotional time, but practical decisions must be made.

The legal process for handling an estate of a deceased person is known as probate. Each state has its own laws about how the probate process should work. If you’re involved in an estate that is going through probate or will be, you should understand some of the basics of this process.

Hands pointing to items in will for probate

Is Probate Required in Pennsylvania?

Probate is usually necessary in Pennsylvania, except under a few conditions. Most estates cannot have the assets distributed to the heirs until the probate process is complete.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Pennsylvania?

Even though probate is generally necessary in Pennsylvania, there are a few ways to avoid it. Estate planning is the best option with the estate placed into a living trust with named beneficiaries. When the owner of the trust passes away, the beneficiaries get the estate without the need for probate.

Sometimes, you can’t avoid probate, but not all of the assets must be included. Certain assets are exempt from the probate process. If the decedent owned an asset with someone else as a joint owner, it won’t need to be probated. The asset will automatically become the property of the surviving owner.

Other assets may have named beneficiaries, which allows them to transfer ownership without probate. Some examples include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts with payable on death.

Can a Personal Representative in Pennsylvania be Compensated?

Yes, Pennsylvania law allows for the executor to receive compensation for their duties. They can also be repaid for expenses they incur as they perform their tasks.

Hands stacking money

How Much Does a Personal Representative in Pennsylvania Get Paid?

Pennsylvania doesn’t set an amount or percentage of the estate as payment for the executor’s work. However, the Pennsylvania Statutes does address the idea of compensation in Title 20, Section 3537, which is reasonable and just. It also states that the compensation may be calculated with a graduated percentage.

What this means is that the court would determine the amount to be paid, and it could be a graduated percentage of the value of the estate. The court would likely base it on what other estates have paid in the past and how much work was involved for the executor.

For example, the executor may be paid four percent on the first amount, three percent on the next amount, and two percent on all values above a certain amount.

How Long Does Probate Take in Pennsylvania?

The timeline for probate varies based on the complexity and size of the estate. Creditors are allowed to submit claims up to one year from the time of publication. You can expect probate to take at least one year before it can be closed. In more complicated cases, probate can last for several years, especially if someone contests the will.

Hourglass showing passing of time

Does Every Estate in Pennsylvania Have to be Probated?

Even when an estate must go through probate, Pennsylvania probate law allows for a simplified process if the estate qualifies. This simplified procedure is available for estates valued at no more than $50,000. The first step to find out if an estate qualifies is to submit a written request with the court.

Wills Must Be filed with the Register of Wills in Pennsylvania?

A will must be filed even if the estate doesn’t need to go through probate. The person who has the will must file it with the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent lived before their death. If probate is necessary, they will also file a petition to open probate with the court.

The Pennsylvania Probate Process

Probate Process in 7 Steps

To settle an estate in Pennsylvatia requires following specific guidelines. It is important to meet the deadlines and complete all the steps in the process.

Step 1

The Executor of the estate files a petition with the court to open probate.

Step 2

The court appoints an Executor of Estate or Personal Representative.

Step 3

The Executor of the Estate notifies the heirs and publishes notice of probate for creditors.

Step 4

The Executor takes inventory of all the assets of the estate and appraises their value.

Step 5

The Executor pays the debts of the estate, including any money owed to the creditors who file a claim against the estate. If assets must be sold to pay the debts, the executor will need to get approval from the court for the sale.

Step 6

The final tax returns are filed and any taxes are paid from the estate.

Step 7

The assets of the estate are distributed to the heirs and probate is closed.


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These steps may sound easy, but they can be quite complicated in large estates. Pennsylvania doesn’t require an estate attorney to handle probate, but it can be beneficial to have legal counsel.

How Long Do You Have to Pay Inheritance Tax in PA?

There is no specific deadline for filing probate after someone dies in Pennsylvania. However, the law does require that within three months of the death, creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries are notified of the death.

Then, within six months, an inventory of assets must be prepared and filed with the Register of Wills. And, within nine months of the death, a Pennsylvania inheritance tax return must be prepared and filed. If applicable, federal estate tax returns must also be prepared and filed.

Probate Court in Pennsylvania

There is no specific deadline for filing probate after someone dies in Pennsylvania. However, the law does require that within three months of the death, creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries are notified of the death.

There is no specific deadline for filing probate after someone dies in Pennsylvania. However, the law does require that the inheritance tax be paid within nine months of the person’s death unless an extension has been requested.

Probate Court in Pennsylvania

Probate is heard in the Courts of Common Pleas. This court has 60 districts, with most representing one county. Seven of the districts include two counties. Each district has at least one judge and may have more. Some Courts of Common Pleas have a division known as Orphans’ Court, which oversees probate. You can find the list of courts and locations on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas | Courts | Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (

Probate Code in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has its own set of laws regarding probate. They are found in the Pennsylvania Statutes in Title 20 Title 20 – DECEDENTS, ESTATES AND FIDUCIARIES.