Estate Administration

What is "Probate"?

Technically, probate is the process by which the Register of Wills determines that a Will is the valid and final last Will of a decedent. Probate is also the term commonly used to describe estate administration. Estate administration is the process by which a decedent's property and certain other affairs are taken care of at the time of death. If the decedent made a Will, the estate administration is handled in accordance with the decedent's desires as expressed in the Will. If the decedent failed to make a Will, then the decedent dies intestate, and his affairs are taken care of in accordance with the intestate provisions of Pennsylvania law.

The probate process involves procedures which have been established to make sure that the proper person is appointed as the executor or administrator of the decedent's estate and that the decedent's property is distributed in accordance with the decedent's Will or under the intestate laws.

What steps are necessary to probate an estate?
The first step is to retain an attorney experienced in estate administration. The attorney will then aid the executor in filing the Will with the Register of Wills and to have the executor appointed. If the decedent died intestate (without a will), an administrator is appointed. The attorney will then aid the executor or administrator in the assembly of the decedent's assets, payment of the debts and expenses, in addition to the filing of various tax returns and other documents. Finally, distributions will be made to the estates heirs.

Should a lawyer be consulted when someone dies?
Yes, whenever a person dies, a lawyer should be consulted to review the decedent's affairs. In many cases, the lawyer may conclude that no estate administration is necessary. However, in other cases, some action will have to be taken. In most estates, a Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return must be filed. Failure to file such a return or take other necessary actions may result in problems occurring in the future.

When does the "reading of the will" take place?
This question is frequently asked by the families of decedents. There is no such thing as the reading of the Will in Pennsylvania. This procedure has been popularized by movies and television programs, but is not a recognized procedure. However, within three months after the executor or administrator is appointed to administer the decedent's estate, copies of the Will must be sent to all beneficiaries under the Will or intestate heirs to notify them of their rights.

How long should the administration of an estate take?
The administration of the estate should generally take no more than one year and often can take even less time. Several factors, however, can delay the administration, including litigation (for example, a Will contest), tax problems (for example, if the decedent failed to file income tax returns for several years prior to his death), a large estate requiring the filing of a Federal Estate Tax Return, or a complex estate (for example, the decedent owned a business).

How much do lawyers charge to administer estates?
In estate administration, the two most commonly used methods for compensating lawyers are at an hourly rate, or as a percentage of the estate. Sometimes, a combination of the two methods is used. The attorneys' fees are reviewed by the Orphans' Court; such fees must be fair and reasonable.


Monday8:30AM - 5:00PM
Tuesday8:30AM - 5:00PM
Wednesday8:30AM - 5:00PM
Thursday8:30AM - 5:00PM
Friday8:30AM - 5:00PM


Irwin Office

226 Main Street, Suite 1,

Irwin, PA 15642

Phone. 724-836-0700

Fax. 724-836-1995


Leechburg Office

157 Market Street,

Leechburg, PA 15656

Phone. 724-845-8339

Fax. 724-836-1995


Greensburg Office

11 North Main Street,

Greensburg, PA 15601

Phone. 724-836-0700

Fax. 724-836-1995