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What is a “small” estate petition?

July 26, 2021

When an individual passes away and becomes deceased in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is generally the case that their estate must be probated through the county court‘s register of wills. The cost and time of probating and administering an estate can be taxing on individuals (beneficiaries, executors, or administrators) who have an interest in the estate.

Pennsylvania however does provide a simpler process for estates whose value is under $50,000 in personal property. Section 3102 of the Pennsylvania Probate Code states that

When any person dies domiciled in the Commonwealth owning property (exclusive of real estate and of property payable under section 3101 (relating to payments to family and funeral directors), but including personal property claimed as the family exemption) of a gross value not exceeding $50,000, the orphans' court division of the county wherein the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death, upon petition of any party in interest, in its discretion, with or without appraisement, and with such notice as the court shall direct, and whether or not letters have been issued or a will probated, may direct distribution of the property (including property not paid under section 3101) to the parties entitled thereto. The authority of the court to award distribution of personal property under this section shall not be restricted because of the decedent's ownership of real estate, regardless of its value.

The decree of distribution so made shall constitute sufficient authority to all transfer agents, registrars and others dealing with the property of the estate to recognize the persons named therein as entitled to receive the property to be distributed without administration, and shall in all respects have the same effect as a decree of distribution after an accounting by a personal representative. Within one year after such a decree of distribution has been made, any party in interest may file a petition to revoke it because an improper distribution has been ordered. If the court shall find that an improper distribution has been ordered, it shall revoke the decree and shall direct restitution as equity and justice shall require.

It is important to note that the value of the personal property of the estate does not take into consideration the decedent’s car(s) and/or real estate. Taking this into account, if the decedent did own real estate at the time of his/her passing, that property will still have to be probated and administered through the normal probate process; an estate attorney in Pennsylvania will be able to assist you in these matters.

Who Can I Contact if Need Assistance with An Estate?

At The Town Law, we understand just how difficult estate matters can be. With our vast experience handling estate cases throughout Bucks County, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania, we are well-equipped to ensure you get the best result possible with attentive attorneys by your side throughout the process. Contact our firm today for a free consultation. Our staff of experienced estate attorneys is dedicated to the best outcomes for all of our clients.