Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

How long does a person have to probate and execute a will? Will an attorney contact you when a will has been executed?

Asked on 5/23/15, 11:13 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

John Davidson Law Office of John A. Davidson

Executing a will is way different from probating, Executing a will is signing the document which happens after a will is drafted.. Probating a will involves getting the court to appoint the executor named in the will to carry out the will's directions.

Why would an attorney contact you when a will is signed?


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Answered on 5/23/15, 2:16 pm

I agree with Attorney Davidson. Why would an attorney contact a person when a will is executed? If an attorney properly drafted a will the attorney's duty is to either oversee the execution or tell the client how to execute properly for the client's state. Usually, this requires the will being signed by the person making the will, two witnesses who are not beneficiaries under the will (sometimes three - depends on the state) and to be self-proving, notarized.

Wills, even though executed, mean nothing because they can be changed up to the moment of death. They do not take effect until the person who made the will (the testator) is dead.

Once the testator is dead, the person named in the will as the executor, then has the duty to file the will with the probate court. Whether the will actually needs probated depends on what assets the testor owns at the time of death and how they are titled. Some assets are non-probate assets and the will does not control the transfer of these assets. Examples are jointl titled real estate with right of survivorship or things with named beneficiary designations like life insurance, annuities or retirement benefits.

Assuming that an estate is to be administered because there are probate assets, the executor needs to get the death certificates. No set time is required but I would give an executor 30-60 days after death to open an estate. If 6 months or more have elapsed since death, then there is a problem. The executor can be compelled to produce a will; concealment of a will may be a crime in some states. If the executor does not produce a will or open an estate, then usually anyone whos is interested can do so.

These latter proceedings will require a probate attorney who practices in the county/state where the estate would be pending. You would be better consulting the attorney if more than 6 months have elapsed. You do not post relevant details (who died, when, whether there are probate assets, etc.) so more specific advice cannot be given.

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Answered on 5/24/15, 7:42 pm

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