The probate process remains a mystery to many individuals. Some may believe it only occurs when someone dies without a will. However, in some states, such as Pennsylvania, probate is necessary even with a will.

Even knowing this, the thought of having to go to court to get what is rightfully yours may intimidate even the most learned person. To help, take a look at a simplified version of the probate process.

The executor files a will

When a person dies with a will in place, the executor must file the documents with the decedent’s county’s Register of Wills division and then with the local orphans’ or probate court. The executor must pay a filing fee which amount depends on the size of the estate. Note, if the estate has less than $50,000 in assets (not inclusive of property), the executor can file for a simplified probate process. Doing so may save time in divvying up the estate to the rightful heirs.

The regular probate process begins

Assuming the estate does not qualify for the simplified probate process, the lengthier full term begins. During this time, the court gives the executor the authority to start notifying the heirs named in the document and creditors to whom the deceased owes money. Publishing a notice in the newspaper also happens during this time. The executor starts to pay debts and taxes using the proceeds and assets in the estate. The executor can sell property and stock and liquidate any other assets necessary.

Administration of the will to beneficiaries

Now that the probate process is rolling, the executor can prepare a financial statement of the remaining estate and start distributing it to the heirs. Keep in mind that inheritance tax is due by any heir except a surviving spouse and a charity. At the end of the process, when there is nothing left to manage, the executor files a document with the court closing the estate and ending probate.