Settling Small Estates
Where the gross estate of a decedent is less than $25,000 (excluding real estate and payments under PEF Code §3101), two (2) alternative settlement procedures are available. PEF Code §3102 gives any party in interest the right to petition for a decree of distribution, whether or not letters have been granted and advertised. The requirements for such a petition are set forth in Phila.O.C. Rule 6.11.B. The Court in its discretion may immediately issue a decree of distribution, either with or without appraisement and with such notice as it may direct. However, this decree does not become final until one (1) year has elapsed from the date of decedent’s death. Before the expiration of the one (1) year period, an objecting party may petition the Court for revocation of its order. If the order is revoked, restitution will be required as to any property distribution improperly decreed. A decree under this procedure is not effective as to real estate. See Chapter 9.

A second method of settlement for a small estate is under PEF Code §3531. After one (1) year from the date of the first complete advertisement of letters, the personal representative may present a petition to the Court for discharge, attaching an exhibit in the form of an account and a statement of proposed distribution. After due notice, the Court may enter a decree approving the distribution and discharging the personal representative and sureties from future liability without the expense of proceeding through the formal account process. This procedure differs from that under §3102 in that it is a final decree, which applies to real as well as personal property and is only available where letters have been duly granted.

The above procedures are not frequently utilized by counsel. Practitioners find that the savings in probate fees, advertising expenses and filing costs do not justify the extra time and effort involved. They can have practical significance, however, where a timely court order is desirable or necessary.

For a fuller treatment of this subject, see Remick, §§19.01 and 32.02.


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