Q:

What Is Probate?

A:

Probate is the process of settling a person’s estate after death. This process includes locating assets, paying the person’s outstanding debts, maintaining assets, and distributing inheritance to the correct beneficiaries.

The court appoints a personal representative to oversee these responsibilities. In many cases, the personal representative works with a probate lawyer to ensure that they fulfill their duties properly.

Q:

Can Creditors Take Away My Inheritance?

A:

When a loved one passes away while they have a loan or another debt, creditors will likely be involved in the probate process. Personal representatives must send public notice of the person’s death so that creditors have a chance to seek repayment before their opportunity is gone.

Unless your loved one created an estate plan that shields assets from creditors, some assets may be withdrawn from the estate to settle debts. However, the personal representative can prioritize keeping certain assets such as sentimental belongings, when possible.

Q:

What Happens if My Loved One Didn’t Have a Will?

A:

A will can specify inheritance and other wishes, but many people do not realize how important a will can be. Without a will, Pennsylvania’s intestate laws apply.

Intestate laws use a formula to settle debts, name beneficiaries, and determine inheritance. Regardless of how your loved one would want to distribute their property, the court will instruct the personal representative to follow its formula.

Q:

Will I Lose My Home After My Spouse Passed Away?

A:

Regardless of whether there is a valid will, some assets are safe from probate. If you jointly owned the house, you may have the right of survivorship. This legal phrase means that your spouse’s share of the home transfers to you directly upon their death without entering probate.

If your spouse named you as the beneficiary or the home in their estate plan, or you have the right of survivorship, creditors or other parties cannot claim your home. However, a will contest, mortgage issue or challenge to your right of survivorship may call for the help of an attorney to protect your home.