Estate Matters
The Klenk Law Blog



Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: After reading the information on your site, I believe my brother used undue influence to get my father to change his will. If I decide to challenge the will, where will the trial be held? How long will the process take?

Where you live, will contests are heard by the judges in the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court, located in Allentown. In many cases, will contest challenges settle before a trial. If the case settles, the parties could agree to terms in a matter of weeks. We’ve even seen family members settle challenges on the courthouse steps minutes before trial. Read more »



Posted on Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my Mother’s estate in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I have advertised the estate and paid all the valid creditors, but a neighbor of my mother has made a claim for a five-figure sum of money that has no validity. Can I make distribution without paying him?

The quick answer is yes, but the right answer is that you should not.

As the executor, you are free to make “at risk” distributions, meaning a distribution that may put you personally at risk. Any experienced Chester County probate lawyer should advise you that ignoring your mother’s neighbor could put yourself at risk. Remember, even when your attorney’s asking you to slow down or take a few extra steps, they’re trying to prevent you from causing yourself more problems later on. You might be motivated to close out your duties quickly, but that neighbor could make some major hassles for you—even if their claim’s not valid. Read more »



Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my Father’s estate in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. I want to distribute the estate assets according to the will. Is there a statute of limitations, or a time period for creditors making claims against the estate? If I distribute the assets, can I be held responsible if creditors make a claim?

As you’ve guessed, your Father’s death did not end his obligation to pay unpaid bills. By taking on the job of Executor, you gain the power and responsibility to assemble his assets and pay those bills. Compared to other states, Pennsylvania is rather creditor-friendly. If you have notice from a creditor, you are expected to address the claim. That being said, creditors cannot wait forever to make their claim. You trigger a one-year statute of limitations period for claims when you properly advertise the estate. Read more »



Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother transferred her Philadelphia County home to me two years ago. She recently died. I am going to sell the house soon, but do I have to pay Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax?

Not in your case. The Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax of 4.5% applies to transfers to children at death, and includes all gifts made within one year of the date of death. If the house was transferred properly into your name 2 years ago, it will not be subject to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax. Read more »



Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My neighbor promised to give me her Philadelphia house in her will. She died recently and her son, who did not talk to her for 10 years, has filed a Will from the 1970s that gives him everything. Can I challenge that will?

If I understand the facts correctly, your neighbor died and — to the best of your knowledge — her most recent will was the one her son filed with the Philadelphia Register of Wills. That will is very old, but — again, as far as you know — is the most recent Will she signed. Though she verbally promised to give you the house in Philadelphia, she failed to write a new will that backs up your claim. Read more »



Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My entire life, I have lived in Gloucester County, New Jersey. My parents also lived in Gloucester City. My father died two years ago, and my mother passed away last week. I was an only child, everything in my mothers Will was left to me, and I am executor. Do I need to probate her will or open an estate? Her only assets were our family home valued at $600,000 and her car.

The short answer is no, you can not transfer the deed without going through probate. In New Jersey, there are only a few cases where there is no need to probate a will. The two most common situations are:

  • when a person dies with no individually held assets or
  • an individual dies with no assets whatsoever.

Read more »



Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother passed away in Atlantic County, New Jersey. She was divorced, with four children, leaving no will. She only owned a house, but it has a mortgage taken out by her boyfriend. How do we sell the house?

When a person dies as a resident of New Jersey without a will, they die “intestate.” New Jersey has a set of rules that dictate who has the right to petition the Atlantic County Surrogate to be named the Administrator of an intestate estate. In your case, all four children have this right. Read more »



Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Years ago, I gave my friend a General Durable Power of Attorney. Now I am married, living in Delaware County and want to give Power of Attorney to my spouse. My now-former friend will not give me the old Power of Attorney. Can I revoke or void the Power of Attorney if he still has the original?

Yes, you can void a Power of Attorney at any time, as long as you have the requisite mental capacity. Your situation will be a little more complex, as you have given the original document to your former Agent. I have not seen that Power of Attorney, but it may have a paragraph that states that banks and others need not confirm with you that the document is still in power. Read more »



Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I served as Executor of my Mother’s estate last year in Camden County, and I obtained releases from all of the Estate’s beneficiaries. Now, one of the beneficiaries who signed a release filed a petition asking me to account. Do I need to Account? What should I do?

The short answer is no, that beneficiary cannot require you to file an accounting.

Unless there are some exceptional circumstances, the Beneficiary waived their right to ask for an accounting after signing the release. In Camden County, unless special cause is shown, an executor typically can be called to account one year after his or her appointment in office. Read more »



Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Peter Klenk

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I have served as the Executor for my mother’s Lehigh County estate for over a year and wish to close the estate. However, my brother claims that I have embezzled money from the estate. This is ridiculous, but how can I close the estate while he makes these claims?

As the executor, you could make an “at risk” distribution of the estate assets. This means you distribute the money without getting a release. This is not advisable, as your brother could then use his inheritance to hire a Lehigh County Orphans’ Court Lawyer to force you to file a formal account. Because you would have distributed the estate funds, this cost would have to come out of your pocket. Read more »