4.04.25 Decedent's Estates

Does your state use terminology different from that provided in 4:04.1 of the Underwriting Manual? If so, please identify and define such terms. Provide statutory citations.

Pennsylvania terminology as to decedent's estate is similar to the terminology listed in Section 4:04.1 of the Underwriting Manual.

Is there a statutory time limit for (a) probating a decedent's will, or (b) opening administration of an Intestate's estate? If so, specify for both situations. Provide statutory citations.

A testate administration or an intestate administration shall not be granted by the Register of wills after the expiration of twenty-one (21) years from the decedent's death except by Order of Court (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3152).

Does the disposition of property under the laws of intestacy depend upon any of the following classifications of property rights or rights in property: Community, separate, tenancy by the entirety, dower, curtesy, etc? If so summarize. Provide statutory citations.

The rights and interest of a beneficiary to real estate under an intestacy are fully determined by the Pennsylvania Intestate statute. Common law dower and curtesy are no longer recognized in Pennsylvania.

Does your state recognize joint tenancies? If so, describe the procedure necessary to pass title held in joint tenancy upon death of a joint tenant. Provide statutory citations.

Pennsylvania recognizes a joint tenancy with right of survivorship provided the instrument creating the joint tenancy clearly designates a joint tenancy ownership arrangement. If the instrument crating the joint tenancy does not designate a joint tenancy, a tenancy in common will be presumed by law except for ownership arrangements between husband and wife in which a tenancy by the entirety will be presumed by law. The surviving joint tenant shall have full title to the property by operation of law on the death of the joint tenant.

Does your state provide for any special benefits to a surviving spouse or family that allow them to take property contrary to will provisions? Provide statutory citations.

A surviving spouse can elect to take against the provisions of the decedent spouse's will and would then be entitled to one-third of the decedent's estate (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 2203).

Summarize the steps required for testate administration. Provide statutory citations.

Steps for a Testate Administration:

  • Will of a decedent domiciled in Pennsylvania is probated before the Register of Wills of the County where the decedent had his last family or principal residence (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3131).

  • Letters testamentary shall be granted by the Register of Wills to the personal representative designated in the Will (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3155).

  • Before letter testamentary are granted to any personal representative, a bond may be required to be posted with the Register of Wills in favor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania unless a specific exemption as stated in the statute is applicable (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3174).

  • A Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return must be filed within nine (9) months of the decedent's death ( 72 P. S. Section 3162).

  • The personal representative should advertise the issuance of letters testamentary to cut-off claims of creditors (20 P.C.S.A. Section 3162).

Summarize the steps required for an intestate administration. Provide statutory citations.

Steps required for an Intestate administration:

  • Letters of Administration are granted by the Register of Wills of the County where the decedent had his last family or principal residence (20 Pa C.S.A. Section 3151). Letters are to be issued in the order outlined in the statute: Surviving spouse, interstate beneficiaries, principal creditors or other fit persons (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3155).

  • The personal representative may be required to post bond with the Register of Wills unless specifically exempt from doing so under the statute (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3174).

  • The personal representative is to administer the assets of the estate including real estate owned by the decedent.

  • A Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return must be filed within nine (9) months of the decedent's death (73 P.S. Section 9142).

  • The personal representative should advertise the issuance of letters of administration to cut off claims of creditors (20 P.C.S.A. Section 3162).

Is there a procedure or documentation customarily accepted by the bar to indicate heirship which is not based on a statue or cases? (e.g. Affidavits of Heirship) If so, describe the procedure and furnish a sample of any forms.

After the decedent has been deceased for a lengthy period of time, it is customary for a title company to insure a conveyance from the individual intestate heirs provided there is proof that the decedent died leaving no will and that all the intestate heirs are grantors in the conveyance. Enclosed herein please find a form Heirship Affidavit.

Are there any short or abbreviated probate procedures provided for by statute? If so, summarize. Provide statutory citations.

There is no abbreviated administration procedure if a decedent dies owning real estate (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3102).

Are there any other probate or alternative probate procedure available in your state that haven't been described? If so, summarize. Provide statutory citations.

There are no other probate or administrative procedure in Pennsylvania.

Do your state statutes provide for an "inheritance" tax? If so, is it based on (a) an heir's share of the estate or (b) is it an estate tax on the total value of the estate, or (c) on another basis? When must the inheritance tax return be filed? Provide for statutory citations.

Pennsylvania has both an inheritance tax and an estate tax (72 P.S. Section 9101 et seq.). The inheritance tax is based on the relationship between the beneficiary and the decedent and the amount being received by the beneficiary: 6% tax on amount being received by lineal beneficiaries and 15% tax on the amount being received by non-lineal beneficiaries. The tax is to be paid within nine (9) months of the decedent's death (72 Pa S. Section 9142).

Do your statues provide for an inheritance tax lien? If so, summarize e.g. what are the requirements for (a) attachment, (b) perfection; and (c) enforcement of the inheritance tax lien? Is there a statute of limitations for the inheritance tax lien? If so, specify. Provide statutory citations.

The Pennsylvania inheritance and estate tax constitutes a lien upon the decedent's real estate. The lien attaches at time of death of the decedent. The lien remains until the taxes and interest are paid in full (72 P.S. Sec 9167). The lien ceases as to any purchaser, mortgagee or lessee if the tax is not enforced by suit within twenty (20) years after the tax becomes delinquent (72 P.S. Section 9169).

Summarize the steps of the procedure for the sale of real property during the pendency of an intestate administration. Provide statutory citations.

A personal representative may sell real property at public or private sale. If the representative was required to post bond, no proceeds from the sale of the real estate may be paid to the personal representative until the Court has made a determination excusing the personal representative from entering additional security or requiring additional security, and in the latter event, only after the personal representative has posted the additional security (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3151).

Can a personal representative for a testate administration sell real property of the estate without obtaining a court order? If so, please identify any requirements? Any limitations? Provide statutory citations.

Except as otherwise provided by the Will, a personal representative under Will may sell, at public or private sale, real property not specifically devised, and with the joinder of the specific devisee as to specifically devised real property. If the personal representative was required to give bond, no proceeds from the sale of the real estate may be paid to the personal representative until the Court has made a determination excusing the personal representative from entering additional security, or requiring additional security, and in the latter event, only after the personal representative has posted the additional security (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3351).

When, if ever, must a personal representative of a testate administration obtain a court order to sell real property of the estate? Summarize the steps of such procedure. Provide statutory citations.

If a personal representative is desirous of selling real estate free and clear of liens, he/she must petition the Court and get an Order of Court that such a sale would be desirable for the proper administration and distribution of the estate (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3353).

Does your state statutes provide for the probate of foreign wills (wills of testators not domiciled in your state)? If so, summarize the provisions and procedures. Provide statutory citations.

A non domiciled decedent's will may be probated before the Register of Wills of any county in which the decedent maintained property (20 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3131).