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Probate & Trust Administration Checklist

Pittsburgh Estate Planning Services

When you are preparing to enter into probate and trust administration, it is helpful to have as much information ahead of time as possible. This will not only save you time, but also headaches in the future, and our estate planning lawyer is here to help. We serve individuals and families who are in many different situations in life, ranging from those who are ready to prepare their estate plan to those who are going through the probate process. We understand that probate can be an exceedingly complicated and time-consuming process, and we have put together this checklist of essential documents that you will need.

A Pittsburgh estate planning attorney at Frayer Law Offices is available at any time to help you through the various steps involved in the trust administration and probate process. Please assemble as many of these documents as you can, and don't worry if you can't find everything at this time.

  1. Original Documentation of all Wills
  2. Original Documentation of Trust and Amendments established by the decedent
  3. Certified copies of the death certificate (three copies preferred, if possible)
  4. Most recent statements for all accounts held where the decedent's name appears as the trustee, sole owner or co-owner in any capacity

These documents are essential to start the process of probate and trust administration, but there are several other documents that will be needed later as well. These documents are not essential at the outset of your probate process, but will eventually become necessary to resolve your probate case.

  1. Certificates of the title ("pink slips") for all motor vehicles, airplanes, boats, etc., of which the decedent had any ownership
  2. All contracts relating to life insurance policies and annuity contracts, including the beneficiary designation forms
  3. All IRA and qualified pension benefit documents, including plan descriptions and beneficiary forms
  4. Proof and copies of all bills, debt, credit card statements, hospital and doctor bills, funeral expenses, etc.
  5. All deeds to real property in which the decedent had ownership interest
  6. Most recent personal income tax return of the decedent
  7. Information about safety boxes and their contents

Once you have these critical documents, meet with our lawyer to officially open up the probate estate with the probate court. From there, your attorney will take care of moving your probate case from one step to the next and will handle any roadblocks that come up along the way. The final step in the probate process involves distributing the balance to the estate beneficiaries.

Simplified Proess for Smaller Estates

In the state of Pennsylvania, you may also want to consider filing for the simplified process that is allowed for smaller estates. If the estate that you are handling has less than $25,000 then you can obtain a written request form and file it with the probate court where your estate matters will be handled. You will have to prove that the estate that you are handling most certainly has less than $25,000 in assets, excepting the real estate, the amounts that family can collect without probate, and the amounts used to pay funeral expenses. This small estate process will bypass a lot of the paperwork and discussions that you have to handle with larger estates, so take advantage of the simplified process if you qualify.

Also, as you prepare for probate you should remember that there are some assets that can technically skip the probate process. These include any money that is in bank accounts up to $3,500 that was designated to the decedent's spouse upon his or her death. As well, up to $3,500 in wages, salary , or other compensation can be paid to the spouse of a decedent without probate court approval, and if there is life insurance payable to the estate that has not been paid but is owed to the decedent, up to $11,000 of the finances can be granted to the spouse in Pennsylvania without having to undergo the probate process.

Work with the Frayer Law Offices

This checklist and outline is far from exhaustive, and we encourage you to call an estate planning lawyer at Frayer Law Offices in Pittsburgh for a more detailed explanation about what needs to take place at each step along the way. We are highly experienced and knowledgeable in this area of the law and will work tirelessly to help you accomplish your goals. In fact, we have been in operation since 1975 and have been able to help many clients in the area with all of their probate and estate planning needs. Oftentimes probate law is complicated and confusing, so you will want someone who has dedicated their life to studying and comprehending these laws on your side. At our firm, you will get a professional who is dedicated to personal representation. We will honor your wishes as an individual as we work hard to help you achieve the outcome you want in your probate procedure.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.