There are four types of estate administration proceedings under Pennsylvania law:
- Grant of letters
- Settlement of small estate on petition
- Ancillary probate or administration
- Temporary fiduciary administration
Grant Of Letters – Most Common Estate Proceeding in Pennsylvania
The grant of letters is the most common estate proceeding in Pennsylvania. The grant of letters is a full administration proceeding when a decedent dies with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate).
When a decedent dies without a will, the proceeding is referred to as a grant of letters of administration. If the decedent dies with a will, the proceeding is called a grant of letters testamentary.
The grant of letters is for admitting the will to probate (in a testate estate), filing bond (if bond is required), appointing a personal representative to administer the estate, and court oversight of the estate administration process.
Settlement Of Small Estate On Petition
The settlement of small estate on petition is another type of estate proceeding available under Pennsylvania law. The settlement of small estate on petition is a shorter proceeding that can be used for estates with a gross value not exceeding $50,000. Pa. C. S. §3102 governs this type of proceeding and provides:
When any person dies domiciled in the Commonwealth owning property (exclusive of real estate and of property payable under section 3101 (relating to payments to family and funeral directors), but including personal property claimed as the family exemption) of a gross value not exceeding $50,000, the orphans’ court division of the county wherein the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death, upon petition of any party in interest, in its discretion, with or without appraisement, and with such notice as the court shall direct, and whether or not letters have been issued or a will probated, may direct distribution of the property (including property not paid under section 3101) to the parties entitled thereto.
This type of estate proceeding can be used whether or not the decedent died with a will. Within one year after a decree of distribution, any interested party may file a petition to revoke it because an improper distribution was ordered. See Deadlines And Timelines In Pennsylvania Probate.
Pennsylvania Ancillary Probate Or Administration
The ancillary probate or administration is another type of estate proceeding available in Pennsylvania. The ancillary probate or administration is sued to administer Pennsylvania property owned by a non-domiciliary (a decedent that was not a resident of Pennsylvania). This type of proceeding is also used to maintain a cause of action by a non-domiciliary in Pennsylvania courts.
Ancillary probate requires a decedent to have a will. A will is not necessary for ancillary administration in Pennsylvania.
Temporary Fiduciary Administration
The fourth type of estate proceeding in Pennsylvania is the temporary fiduciary administration. This type of proceeding is used to appoint a temporary personal representative when the previously appointed personal representative cannot serve. Such situations include when the previously appointed personal representative has a conflict of interest, is in military service, or where continued service of the personal representative is not in the best interests of the Pennsylvania estate.
Pennsylvania law also permits payments to be made by employers, financial institutions, insurance companies, and the state treasurer to certain family members, regardless of whether any of the above types of estate proceedings have commenced. See Pa. C.S. §3101.
A Pennsylvania probate lawyer can advise what type of estate proceeding is appropriate for the circumstances of your case.