How Do You Open an Estate In Pennsylvania?

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To open an estate in Pennsylvania, the person seeking to open the estate (the petitioner) files a petition for grant of letters and supporting documents with the register of wills.

Along with the petition for grant of letters, the petitioner must generally provide the following documents to open an estate in Pennsylvania:

  1. Original will or codicil
  2. Death certificate
  3. Estate information sheet
  4. Bond
  5. Renunciations
  6. Witness affidavits

 

We have previously written about who is qualified to serve as an executor and who has standing to petition to serve as executor in Pennsylvania here.

What Information Is Included In the Petition For Grant Of Letters?

A petition for grant of letters or of administration should contain the following statements made under oath:

  1. Decedent’s name, age, state or country of domicile, his last family or principal residence, and the place and day of his death.
  2. If decedent died intestate, the name and residence address of the surviving spouse, if any, and the names, relationships, and residence addresses of other heirs.
  3. If the decedent died testate, whether the will was modified by the occurrence of any of the circumstances delineated in section 2507 (relating to modification by circumstances).
  4. If the decedent was domiciled in the Commonwealth at the time of his death, the estimated value of all his personal property, and the estimated value and the location of his real property situated in the Commonwealth.
  5. If the decedent was not domiciled in the Commonwealth at the time of his death, the estimated value of his personal property in the Commonwealth, the estimated value of his personal property in the county in which the petition is filed, and the estimated value and location of his real property in the Commonwealth.
  6. The name and residence address of each person to whom letters are requested to be granted.
  7. Any other facts necessary to entitle the petitioner to letters.

 

You can find the requirements for the contents of the petition for grant of letters at 20 Pa. C.S. § 3153.

Who Is Entitled To Receive Notice Of the Opening Of a Pennsylvania Estate?

The people entitled to notice of the opening of an estate depends on whether the decedent died with or without a will.

Notice If the Pennsylvania Decedent Died Intestate

If the decedent died intestate (without a will), the personal representative must give notice to each person entitled to inherit under Pennsylvania’s laws of descent and distribution.  The deadline to give notice is within 3 months of appointment.

Notice If the Pennsylvania Decedent Died Testate

If the decedent died testate (with a will), then the personal representative must give notice to:

  1. Each beneficiary named in the will.
  2. Decedent’s spouse and children.
  3. The trustee of any trust beneficiaries.
  4. The attorney general for any charitable beneficiary the interest of which exceeds $25,000 or if the charitable beneficiary is not to be paid in full.
  5. If decedent has received Medicaid or similar governmental health benefits, then notice must be given to the Department of Revenue.

 

A certification of notice must be filed within 10 days of giving the required notice.

To determine whether you need to open an probate estate in Pennsylvania, contact a Pennsylvania probate lawyer.