Probate refers to the court oversight of gathering and distributing an estate’s assets after a person dies. Although probate can be costly and time-consuming, careful estate planning can streamline the process, providing peace of mind that your loved ones will have continued financial support.  

Read on to learn more about how the probate process works in Pennsylvania. 

Probate-exempt assets 

Many types of property can avoid probate in Pennsylvania. Examples of assets the will executor can transfer to the beneficiary without court oversight include: 

  • Anything you owned in partnership with another person, such as a house you shared with your spouse 
  • Assets with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies, retirement plans and payable on death bank accounts 
  • Assets in a living trust 
  • Up to $10,000 in cash, provided the money goes to a spouse or close family member 
  • Up to $10,000 in outstanding wages or work compensation 

Simplified probate 

State law allows for a simplified probate process for estates with less than $50,000 in assets. This threshold does not include the probate-exempt assets listed above or funeral expenses. With this process, the will’s executor requests simplified probate through the local probate court. If approved, he or she can distribute the assets without probate. 

Formal probate 

If your estate requires formal probate, the executor will file the will with the register of wills in your county along with a petition for probate. The court then issues a document giving the executor power to act on behalf of the estate. If witnesses did not see you sign the will in front of a notary, the executor must gather sworn statements from the witnesses before proceeding.  

During probate, the executor will wrap up the estate’s affairs by paying debts and taxes. He or she will then gather remaining assets and distribute them to the appropriate beneficiaries as designated in your will.