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August 2023

The Probate Court Process

Probate is a legal process for dealing with the assets and debts of someone who has died. It consists of the executor filing papers with a court, notifying creditors and heirs, and gathering and valuing assets.

Some states have laws that allow property to pass on to heirs without probate or through a simplified version of probate. But most estates will go through a formal probate. Click Here to learn more.

probate court process

What is Probate?

When a loved one passes, dealing with their estate is emotional and stressful. Probate is a legal process that can be time-consuming and expensive, but it’s necessary to ensure their wishes are honored and their assets distributed properly.

The probate process involves locating and identifying the deceased’s final assets, paying their debts and distributing their estate’s property to the rightful heirs. State laws define what must be included in an estate and how that estate must be distributed. These laws aren’t the same across the country, so you’ll want to learn your specific state’s requirements.

If you have a will, the person named in it as executor is in charge of inventorying your estate’s assets, paying your debts and distributing your property according to your wishes. That person is called a personal representative (or an administrator, if you died without a will). To become a personal representative, you’ll file paperwork with the court that shows you’re a valid executor. The court will then schedule a hearing to approve you or hear objections from other parties.

During the probate process, you’ll likely be required to pay court filing fees and creditor notice fees. In addition, if you hire an attorney to handle your case, they’ll need to be compensated, which is usually a percentage of the total estate value. Depending on your state, you may also be responsible for securing and protecting the estate’s assets. This includes things like putting a home up for sale, taking care of utility bills or hiring employees at a business that’s owned by the deceased.

The probate process is important because it can help ensure the will was signed correctly. It also catches any unauthorized actions taken against the deceased’s estate and makes sure the estate’s creditors are paid. If the estate has no money left, it can be liquidated to pay off any outstanding debts. Lastly, the estate can be closed once all the above steps are completed.

How does Probate work?

Probate is a court-supervised process that authenticates the last will (if there is one) and transfers property from the estate to the deceased person’s beneficiaries. It includes locating and determining the value of assets, paying bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder to legal heirs. The process can take time and be expensive, but an experienced estate attorney can help to make it as efficient as possible.

When a person dies, the executor named in their will must file a petition with the Surrogate’s Court to initiate probate proceedings. The petition should include the original will, a copy of the death certificate and an estimate of the value of the estate. The executor must also provide a list of all known assets and their values to the court, as well as resolve any outstanding debts. All interested parties—beneficiaries and heirs at law—must be notified of the probate proceeding.

Once the petition is filed, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the administration of the estate. This person will follow a set of county laws (known as intestate succession) to determine who receives your property, care for any minor children or pets, and pay any debts you have left behind. The administrator will also work with the executor to establish an inventory of your assets, identify family members and other heirs, and file tax returns.

Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass without probate or through a simplified procedure. This includes proceeds from an insurance policy, retirement accounts like a 401k and IRA, and certain bank accounts that have a designated beneficiary. In many cases, an estate attorney can orchestrate these types of trust funds so that they transfer immediately to the appropriate heirs upon your death.

While the probate process can be time consuming and expensive, it is a necessary step in honoring your loved ones’ wishes after you die. An estate planning attorney can help you determine ways to avoid the probate process altogether so that your family can settle your estate more efficiently and with managed legal liability.

What happens if I die intestate?

Despite the fact that no one likes to think about death, it is important to take steps to ensure your loved ones are provided for when you pass. One of the most important ways to do this is by creating a will and ensuring your executor is authorized to carry out your wishes after your death. Without a will, your estate could end up in probate, where the court makes decisions on your behalf. In such a situation, your loved ones and beneficiaries may not receive everything they are entitled to.

In the absence of a will, the state will determine who inherits your estate according to its intestate succession laws. This is a complicated process, and the results vary by state. In Pennsylvania, for example, heirs are allocated based on relationships (i.e. spouse, children, parents, siblings and descendants of deceased siblings). Intestate inheritances can also be impacted by preexisting arrangements such as living trusts.

If the person dies with a valid will, the personal representative named in the will must file an application for letters of administration (also known as an “initial petition for probate” or “grant of administration”) with the probate court. This application gives the executor or administrator authority to perform various tasks, such as locating and valuing assets, paying outstanding bills, selling assets as needed, and filing taxes.

The court will typically hold an initial hearing where it appoints the executor of the estate and authorizes him or her to begin the probate process. The executor must notify those to whom the estate owes money (creditors), communicate with beneficiaries, and inventory all assets. In many cases, the executor will have to sell assets in order to pay any debts left by the deceased. The remaining assets will be distributed to beneficiaries, as directed by the Will or the court.

If the estate’s debts and taxes are greater than its assets, the remaining balance is “insolvent,” which means it cannot cover the costs of settling the estate. During this process, the creditors will be paid in order of priority set forth in state law. Once this is complete, the executor will transfer any property deeds or titles into the name of the appropriate beneficiary.

How do I avoid Probate?

The death of a loved one can be emotionally difficult and stressful. Adding to the grieving process is the task of sorting out their estate and assets, and settling any taxes or debts. This is where probate comes in. Probate is a legal process that ensures the deceased person’s will is valid, their debts are paid and that their property is distributed to their heirs. The problem is that the process can be lengthy and costly, and many people want to avoid it altogether.

The good news is that it is possible to bypass probate with careful planning. A key component to this is establishing trusts. Trusts can help you to avoid probate completely and keep your family’s estate private. There are other methods to avoid probate as well, such as joint ownership and payable-on-death bank accounts. These methods will not eliminate all probate costs but can help you to reduce them significantly.

It is important to note that avoiding probate does not mean skipping out on your legal obligations as a fiduciary. The word “probate” means to prove, so probate proceedings are still necessary in order to validate the will and ensure that all legal duties are carried out.

For example, if your spouse owned real estate in Pennsylvania or Arizona (both of which require ancillary probate), those properties cannot be transferred until the probate court closes the estate. This can take months or even years.

You may also have a number of individually-owned assets that must be processed through probate, including investment accounts or portfolios, bank or brokerage accounts, and businesses. This includes personal property like furniture, jewelry and family heirlooms. There are several ways to avoid probate with these types of assets, such as joint ownership with right of survivorship or life estate deeds.

Talk to your attorney about these options and how they can benefit you and your family. They can guide you through the steps to avoiding probate and protecting your loved ones. Avoiding probate can save your loved ones time, money and stress after your death.

Why You Shouldn’t Replace Your AC Unit Unless It Costs $5,000 Or More

When the home air conditioning unit goes out, it is frustrating. But replacing it isn’t always the best solution. Some experts use a rule of thumb: If the repair costs exceed $5,000, it makes sense to replace it.

AC Repair

During routine maintenance, the HVAC technician can inspect and clean various parts of the system. But other AC Repair Van Nuys projects can be done at home.

Your thermostat is the little box on your wall that controls all of your home’s heating and cooling. Whether it’s an old analog model with tiny numbers, dials, and levers or an all-digital smart device, the function is the same: you tell it what temperature you want in your home, and the system adjusts to get there. If the thermostat can’t reach your set temperature, it turns off and stays off until the room or home cools down.

When you call an AC repair technician to check your unit, the first thing they’ll likely do is ask to see your thermostat. It might seem strange, but they need to make sure that the thermostat is flipped to “cool” and that the temperature isn’t set too high or low. They’ll also look to make sure the power switch on the air handler (inside your home) and the circuit switches supplying power to the outdoor unit aren’t tripped or blown out.

If they can’t locate any obvious problems, the repairman may check your ductwork for a number of reasons. They might find that there’s a small leak or obstruction or that your ducts aren’t properly sealed or insulated. If your ducts are clogged, you’ll need to have them professionally cleaned or replaced.

Similarly, they might listen to your unit for signs of a problem with the compressor. If it’s overheating or the breaker keeps tripping, that could indicate that it needs replacing.

A faulty thermostat can be a problem in itself, but it can also be a sign of a more serious issue with your air conditioner. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of replacing an entire unit, it might be worth calling a professional to have it repaired and get your system working again.


The AC condenser is the component responsible for pumping refrigerant in and out of the system. It also helps the compressor and evaporator do their jobs in a way that maximizes cooling efficiency for your home or office. A malfunctioning condenser can lead to expensive damage to other components, which is why it’s important to keep up with routine maintenance.

The air conditioning condenser is a large piece of equipment, and it’s one of the most complex parts of any HVAC system. It’s essential that only licensed AC professionals work on it because a mistake could be fatal to the entire unit.

Fortunately, a malfunctioning condenser is not usually as serious as it sounds. The most common problem is an electrical problem, and a quick fix is possible with a new relay switch. The relay switch is a mechanical device that uses low-voltage power to turn on 220-volt high-amperage current to the compressor and condenser fan. When the switch fails, the fan can’t start, and the compressor won’t turn on either.

Another common problem is a leak in the coils. Typically, the leak is due to an impact on the condenser from falling debris, corrosion from exposure to saltwater or pollution, or overheating. Depending on the type of coil, repair or replacement will be necessary. The cost of replacement will depend on whether the coils are copper or aluminum and if they’re finned or spined.

A leaking condenser can cause major problems with your cooling system, including low indoor humidity and an insufficient supply of cool air. If you see puddles of refrigerant or notice that your energy bill has increased, call for an AC inspection immediately.

A faulty condenser can be a huge headache, but it is possible to reduce the need for repairs through regular maintenance and proper use. Maintaining the system with a programmable thermostat and sealing air leaks will help limit the strain on your air conditioner. Trimming foliage and removing yard waste near the unit can also help, as can keeping up with annual maintenance and preseason tune-ups.


The evaporator coil, found in the air handler inside your home, works with the condenser to complete the AC cooling process. Both coils must be in good condition for the system to operate, and they both require regular maintenance.

A dirty evaporator coil can be ineffective, and it can also contaminate household air with oily residue or other chemicals from cleaning products. A licensed HVAC professional should clean the evaporator coil, and you should regularly change your air filter to minimize the buildup of dust on the coils.

Evaporator coils need good airflow to transfer heat efficiently, and dust or debris interferes with this vital function. Keeping the area around the coils free of debris and trimming yard foliage to promote proper air flow is essential. A buildup of debris can strain the coil and cause it to overheat. If you suspect the evaporator coil is blocked, shut off power to the unit and use a stiff brush to remove any dirt or debris.

The constant circulation of cooling refrigerant in the evaporator coil erodes its inner lining over time, which weakens the coil and makes it susceptible to refrigerant leaks. When a leak develops, it’s important to have it repaired promptly by a professional. The lack of refrigerant can make the system ineffective and increase energy bills.

Leaks from the evaporator coil can result in high humidity levels in a house, which can be uncomfortable for inhabitants and contribute to mold or mildew problems. High humidity can also cause a musty smell, and it is more difficult to cool a home with high humidity.

Low refrigerant is a common AC problem that most homeowners can fix themselves by adding more. If you discover that your system is low on refrigerant, however, it’s important to understand what caused the problem in order to prevent future issues and keep your cooling system running at peak performance.

Having an understanding of how your air conditioning system works can help you prevent problems, maintain the health of your equipment, and extend the lifespan of its components. Learning about the evaporator coil and the condenser coil can help you be a more proactive homeowner, so you can address any AC issues sooner rather than later.


Filters are designed to trap pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust, and other pollutants before they’re pushed out through your vents. Changing your air filter on a regular basis is the best way to prevent these contaminants from building up in your home and also keep your system running smoothly.

There are several different types of filters, and each one has its own specific purpose. Some filters kill bacteria and viruses, while others are simply designed to screen out dirt and dust. The best choice for your home depends on the types of allergens that are present in your area. If you have a family member who suffers from asthma or allergies, then you’ll want to invest in a high-efficiency filter that can keep these particles at bay.

Whenever you’re ready to change your filter, first make sure the power to your unit is turned off. This is important for both your safety and the safety of your equipment. If the system is still powered on while you’re removing a clogged filter, then those particles could get sucked back into the unit, where they can cause damage or even breakdowns.

Once the power is off, you can easily remove the old filter and replace it with a new one. When choosing a new filter, refer to your owner’s manual for guidance. Most manufacturers will specify the size and shape of the filter needed for their units. They’ll also explain how often the filter should be changed as well as the ideal conditions for this maintenance task.

While changing your air filter may seem like a minor chore, it’s important to do so on a regular basis. Not only will it help you breathe cleaner air, but it will also reduce the risk of costly repairs in the future. In fact, if you don’t change your air filter regularly and it becomes caked with dirt, it can actually choke off the moving parts of your HVAC system, causing them to break down. This is why it’s important to set a reminder or make it a part of your monthly cleaning routine.