Wills & Probate Law

Wills & Probate Law Pittsburgh, PA

When someone dies a will or a trust handles the distribution of the decedent’s estate. In the case of a will, the document will be subject to probate, which is the term for the legal proceeding that is conducted by the court to determine if your will is valid, to assess your assets and debts. Probate helps to assure that your wishes are carried out because the process is supervised by the court. The court will consider claims of creditors and challenges to the will. You may also stipulate a guardian for minor children. The executor you name in your will is the person who will inventory your assets and debts, carry out your wishes and file death tax returns, as well as a final income tax return. Probating an estate can be expensive and time-consuming. It may be months before distributions are made.

A Living Trust manages property before and after death. It avoids probate. The trust makes provision for a successor trustee in the event of your death. The trustee distributes assets to your beneficiaries. Should you become incapacitated, your affairs will be managed by the trustee. A trust is more expensive to prepare than a will. In either case it is wise to consult an attorney, especially if there are extensive assets. A will becomes a matter of public record. A trust does not.

If an individual does not have a will or a trust it means he or she dies “intestate. In that case, the laws of the state control and distribute the property to a spouse, or heirs who are closest. If you do not appoint a guardian for minor children, they may wind up in the care of someone you would not want in this position. By not appointing an executor, the state can appoint an administrator who may have to pay fees, or post a bond which will be paid for by the estate.

It should be noted that life insurance, retirement accounts and pension plans are paid directly to named beneficiaries. Jointly held property passes directly to the survivor.

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