A Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament must be submitted for probate before the register of the county where the deceased had his last family or principal residence. If the decedent did not have a domicile in the Commonwealth, the Last Will may be probated in any county where his/her property is located. S3131
Production of the Will
Any interested party may request the court to issue a citation to the person alleged to have possession or control of a Pennsylvania Will of a deceased testator. The citation requires the person to show cause as to why the Will should not be deposited with the register. If the person cannot show good cause, the register can order the Will to be deposited with the court. S3137
Petition for Probate
The petition for probate and grant of letters must be filed with the Register of Wills. This form may be used to probate a Pennsylvania Will and to appoint a personal representative. It may also be used to appoint an administrator where the decedent left no legal Will.
Proving the Will
Before probate is granted, validity of the Will needs to be proved. This is easy if the Will is self-proved and no person objects.
If a Pennsylvania Last Will & Testament is not self-proved then the subscribing witnesses may need to provide evidence by oath or affirmation s3132. This evidence may be taken by the register of any county of the Commonwealth or before an officer authorized to administer oaths unless there is a contest with respect to the validity of the Will. s3154
The statute allows a Pennsylvania Will to be offered for probate at any time. s3133(a)
However, once 21 years have elapsed from the date of the decedent’s death, letters testamentary or of administration can only be granted with the court’s permission (upon showing cause). s3152
If the Last Will and Testament designated an executor, then letters testamentary are granted to that person unless he/she is unable or unwilling to act. s3155(a)
If there is no executor designated in the Pennsylvania Will, then the court appoints an administrator and grants that person letters of administration. The order of priority for persons entitled to this role:
- Beneficiaries named in the Will to receive the residuary estate;
- Surviving spouse;
- Persons entitled under the laws of intestacy;
- Creditors of the decedent;
- Other persons the court deems fit. S3155
If the decedent left $25,000 or less in value of personal property (claimed as the family exemption) then it is considered to be a small estate. In such cases, any party in interest may petition the Orphans’ court division for a decree of distribution.
The decree allows distribution of the personal property without administration to the parties entitled in accordance with the Pennsylvania Will or intestacy rules.
The small estate petition may be filed regardless of whether the decedent left real estate of any value. s3102
Pennsylvania Estate Tax
Where the decedent was a resident of Pennsylvania, the personal representative needs to file an inheritance tax return (REV-1500). The return must be filed with the department of revenue within 9 months of the deceased’s death. A penalty of 25% of the tax or $1,000 (whichever is less) may be applied for failing to file.
Even if you don’t have a Pennsylvania Will, your estate is still liable for the state inheritance tax (calculated on the amount left to your heirs under intestacy laws).