How Do You Settle a Small Estate In Pennsylvania?

When the gross estate of a Pennsylvania decedent is less than $50,000 (excluding real estate and certain payments relating to payments to family and funeral directors), the estate is considered a small estate and does not have to go through the formal probate process. 20 PA Cons Stat § 3102 (2021).

How Do You Determine If You Have a Small Estate Under Pennsylvania Law?

To determine if the Pennsylvania estate qualifies as a small estate, you must determine the value of the gross estate.  Real estate is excluded from the calculation, as are payments to family and funeral directors under 20 PA Cons Stat. § 3101 (2021).

If the value of the gross estate is less than $50,000, then the estate qualifies as a small estate.  Two settlement procedures are available under Pennsylvania law.

Petition for a Decree Of Distribution

Pennsylvania Code §3102 allows an interested person to petition for a decree of distribution of a small estate.  A petition for decree of distribution can be done whether or not letters have been granted and advertised.  The petition for a decree of distribution include basic information about the decedent, the petitioner, those people entitled to the estate, and the property at issue.

Upon the filing of the petition for a decree of distribution, the court may issue a decree of distribution of the estate.  This may be with or without appraisement.  However, within one year after the decree of distribution, any party in interest may file a petition to revoke because an improper distribution has been order.  If the Pennsylvania court finds that an improper distribution of an estate has been ordered, it shall revoke the decree and direct restitution “as equity and justice shall require.”

A decree under section 3102 is not effective as to real estate.

Petition for Discharge After One Year

The second method to settle a Pennsylvania estate under $50,000 is under 20 PA Cons Stat § 3531 (2021).

After the expiration of one year from the date of the first complete advertisement of the grant of letters, the Pennsylvania personal representative may present a petition to the court with an annexed account showing the administration of the estate, the distribution theretofore made and suggesting the proper distribution of the estate not theretofore distributed.  The court, upon proof of notice to all interested parties, may approve the distribution made and order distribution of the assets not yet distributed and discharge the personal representative without the expense of a formal account.

A Pennsylvania probate lawyer will be able to advise if the estate qualifies as a small estate under Pennsylvania law, and the probate procedure that best suits your situation.  Learn more about Pennsylvania probate here.