How does the probate process end in Pennsylvania?

There are essentially two ways to close an estate in Pennsylvania: informally and formally. Most Pennsylvania estates are closed informally, by release agreement, sometimes referred to as a Family Settlement Agreement. Release agreements allow the beneficiaries of a Pennsylvania estate to approve the administration of the estate and consent to the final distribution of the remaining estate assets. This agreement will usually include an informal account of the assets, liabilities, expenses, and proposed distribution, as well as important legal provisions for the protection of the Executor or Administrator. If all parties sign the release agreement, the estate may be closed without court action.

Alternatively, when a release agreement cannot be obtained, the Executor or Administrator must file a formal account for approval by the Orphans’ Court.  Specific legal requirements must be followed when using this route. The Orphans’ Court will schedule hearings for all objections it receives from an interested party. After objections have been ruled on, the court will enter a final order, thus allowing the Executor or Administrator to close the estate.