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Translating Legalese with Barton Law: Probate and Estate Administration

Welcome to part three of our four-part series: Translating Legalese with Barton Law. Legalese is used to describe legal terms and documents that are difficult for non-lawyers to understand. As attorneys, it is our job to translate these terms and documents for you to help you make well-informed decisions.

Probate means to prove a Will. The probate process is the process of taking the Will to the Register of Wills in the county where the Decedent last resided and having the named Executor/Executrix appointed to serve and administer the Estate. In the event that there is no Will, the person(s) entitled under the statute instead appear before the Register of Wills to be appointed as Administrator/Administratrix of the Estate. The Register of Wills then issues Letters Testamentary if the named Executor is being appointed or Letters of Administration if there is no Will or there is a vacancy. This process is only necessary if there are probate assets in the estate (which we'll translate in next month's "Translating Legalese"). Many people think that probate should be avoided at all costs; however, in Pennsylvania, the probate process isn't as costly or cumbersome as some other states. While there may be circumstances that warrant creating an estate plan to specifically avoid probate, it is not always necessary or appropriate to do so.

"Estate administration" refers to the entire process of handling a Decedent's estate including, but not limited to:

  • Probate, if necessary,

  • the sale and disposition of the Decedent's real estate, financial accounts and policies, and personal effects,

  • paying outstanding debts, liens and administration expenses,

  • filing and paying any taxes due,

  • notifying the beneficiaries of their interest in the estate,

  • opening and managing the estate account,

  • completing any and all legal requirements (such as advertising the estate), and

  • providing an account and distributing the remaining balance of the estate to the entitled beneficiaries.

The estate administration process varies greatly depending on the circumstances and complexities of the Decedent's estate. In most cases, if the executor/administrator works diligently, the estate administration will take approximately 15-24 months before the final distributions are made and the estate is closed.

Click to visit the website for the Montgomery County Register of Wills:

Click to visit the website for the Bucks County Register of Wills:


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