As the Covid-19 Coronavirus continues to affect the nation, it appears as if Virtual Probate is here to stay. No longer are the days where you can just waltz into the Register of Wills and open probate for your late parents’ estate. Although in some ways it streamlines the probate process, it can be a problem for many people, especially for folks who are not tech savvy. This new process makes it even more difficult to navigate the challenges of estate administration. All the more reason to hire an experienced attorney for the process. In fact, some counties in Pennsylvania are requiring the presence of an attorney for probate proceedings. Northampton County is one of them. It is important to find a firm that is staying up to date with the new proceedings and able to do the navigating for you. Finding the right firm is key to your success during an emotional time for you and your family.
Every county requires the same documents to request a zoom conference for the virtual probate process. If the decedent died testate, you would need to email your attorney a copy of the will, a copy of your driver’s license, the death certificate. You will also need to provide any necessary affidavits or renunciations with a copy of their driver’s licenses as will. If the decedent died intestate, you must provide renunciations of all living heirs with a copy of their driver’s license. The attorney or paralegal will draft a petition on your behalf requesting for a Grant of Letters to open probate. All the documents are submitted via email or e-filing to the Register of Wills in that county. Once approved, the Register will respond via email with an amount it will cost to open probate and a time to schedule your zoom conference to sign your petition. They will also send login information for the zoom conference to the attorney and the client. Once a zoom conference is scheduled, a client can either zoom from a private location or share the zoom conference with the attorney or paralegal. It is recommended that the client meets with the attorney and conduct the zoom conference from the same location if possible. This will eliminate any problems that could occur such as tech issues. The client will sign the petition in the presence of the Register via zoom. The attorney or paralegal is also the witness of that signature.
After the virtual probate process, all original documents are submitted to the Register of Wills. The documents include the Will (if one is available), signed petition for probate, original renunciations, and affidavits, an original death certificate and copies of driver’s licenses. A check in the amount of the proposed probate fees must also be included with your documents. As soon as the Register of Wills receives your documents and payment, the Register will issue a Grant of Letters and Short Certificates to the Executor or Administrator of the estate. This document allows you to access bank accounts and start marshalling the assets the estate.
The above outline can be troublesome for those who wish to be pro se during probate proceedings. An attorney can help eliminate the pressures of the post Covid-19 court system by doing the work for the client. Allowing an attorney to assist in the process releases the client to process the passing of a loved one and attend to family needs.