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Trust Administration and Probate in Pennsylvania: The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney

August 18, 2023

Navigating the labyrinth of trust administration and probate in Pennsylvania is a daunting task for those without legal expertise. Caputo & Mariotti Law Offices bring years of experience to the table, helping Pennsylvanians manage the intricate aspects of their estates. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify these two crucial topics, emphasizing their importance, state-specific considerations, and how an estate planning attorney can make a significant difference.


What is Trust Administration?

Trust administration is the legal process wherein a trustee manages and disburses a trust’s assets according to the trust document and prevailing laws. It includes various responsibilities such as:

  • Asset Inventory: Listing all the assets within the trust.
  • Asset Management: Safeguarding and managing trust assets.
  • Distributions: Accurately distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensuring that the trust operates within the bounds of the law.
  • Tax Responsibilities: Filing trust taxes and possibly paying inheritance or estate tax.


Why Trust Administration is Important: More Than Just Legal Jargon


While the term ‘trust administration’ may initially seem like incomprehensible legal jargon, it’s a pivotal aspect of estate planning with real-world implications. Here’s why:

Asset Protection

When it comes to preserving your wealth for future generations, there’s no room for error. Firstly, proper trust administration ensures that your assets are not only protected but are also effectively managed to yield the best possible returns. Secondly, a trust can safeguard a family business from a hostile takeover. Lastly, it can also keep your investment portfolio in safe hands.

Legal Compliance

Failures in trust administration can lead to legal disputes that drain time and money from the trust’s assets. Legal compliance isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about maintaining the integrity of your intentions as set out in the trust document.

Beneficiary Rights

One of the key objectives of a trust is to provide for your loved ones when you’re gone. Efficient trust administration guarantees that the rights of beneficiaries are upheld. Imagine a scenario where a trust fund is set up for a child’s education. Mismanagement could mean that the child might not get the educational opportunities that the trust was intended to provide.

Tax Benefits

Effective trust administration can result in significant tax advantages. Given that different types of trusts are taxed differently, knowing how to navigate these rules can result in substantial tax savings for the trust itself and its beneficiaries.

trust-administration-and-probateReal-life Situations

  • Special Needs Trusts: Parents with special needs children commonly establish trusts for their child’s financial security. Proper administration helps the child stay eligible for government aid while also enjoying trust assets.
  • Real Estate Trusts: If you own multiple properties, managing and distributing these assets can be complex. Establishing a trust streamlines this, and effective administration ensures legal compliance and management.
  • Elderly Care: Seniors can use trusts to manage assets and healthcare costs. Trust administration guarantees they receive necessary care without depleting assets.

Specifics of Trust Administration and Probate in Pennsylvania

The laws governing trust administration and probate can vary significantly from state to state, and Pennsylvania is no exception. Here are some crucial elements specific to Pennsylvania that you should be aware of:

Intestate Succession

If you die without a will in Pennsylvania, your estate goes through intestate succession. This means the state will distribute your assets based on a legal formula rather than your wishes. A well-administered trust can circumvent this issue, providing more control over how your assets are managed and disbursed.

Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that levy an inheritance tax, affecting both probate and non-probate assets, including those in trusts. Depending on your relationship to the beneficiary, the tax rate can vary from 4.5% to 15%. Proper trust administration can help to minimize this tax burden.

Short Certificate

In Pennsylvania, a “Short Certificate” is a legal document that provides the legal authority to the administrator or executor of the estate. Without it, you cannot transfer ownership of the deceased’s assets. This step is an essential part of the probate process but is generally not needed in trust administration.

Limited Tort Option

Pennsylvania allows a “Limited Tort” option in its estate planning, affecting the rights to recover damages in personal injury claims. This choice can have long-reaching implications for both trust assets and beneficiaries, especially if they are minors or have special needs.

Pennsylvania Uniform Trust Act

Pennsylvania adopted the Uniform Trust Act in 2006, providing a standardized framework for creating, modifying, terminating, and administering trusts. An estate planning attorney familiar with Pennsylvania’s specific regulations can navigate this law effectively, optimizing your trust structure.


Trust administration and probate are complex yet integral parts of estate planning, more so in Pennsylvania due to its unique set of rules. Whether you’re setting up a trust or navigating the probate process, a seasoned estate planning attorney can provide indispensable guidance and peace of mind.

Contact Caputo & Mariotti for a consultation today to ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to secure your legacy in Pennsylvania.


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