Estate Administration & Probate
The process of estate administration contains many pitfalls for the unwary. It is one of the few areas where legal counsel is not only advisable, it is absolutely necessary. Missing a deadline, failing to provide a notice or acting prematurely, for example, can be costly mistakes.
We can help you through the estate administration process. For example, not every estate must be probated; together, we can determine whether probate is necessary. Or, the nature of some assets might require that the personal representative obtain official standing to act, but the value of the estate is so little that formal probate is unnecessary; we can advise you as to whether the estate may be handled as a "small estate."
The Pennsylvania inheritance tax is a tax that the living pay for the right to inherit from the person who has died property that the survivor did not own prior to the death of that person. If you are joint owner with right of survivorship on an account with another person, technically you each own one-half (½) of that account and, upon the death of one owner, the surviving owner automatically owns all of the funds in the account. Probate is unnecessary because, the way the account is titled, the survivor automatically owns the account at the instant of the death of the joint owner; however, the surviving joint owner must pay inheritance tax on the one-half (½) of the joint account that he/she received from the now deceased joint owner. The same is true if you are the beneficiary of an Individual Retirement Account, or beneficiary of a Certificate of Deposit payable on death; i.e., you will pay inheritance tax on the amount you received as beneficiary. Note, however, that insurance proceeds are not subject to inheritance tax and are the exception to the rule.
The inheritance tax is paid on the value of the net estate. The amount of the inheritance tax depends upon the relationship of the survivor to the person who has died. Wives/husbands pay no inheritance tax; children, grandchildren and parents pay 4.5%, and brothers and sisters pay 12%. Everyone else pays 15%. Charities, of course, do not have to pay inheritance tax, and insurance proceeds are also exempt.
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