There are many reasons to register or probate a will - chief among these is the need to transfer assets, e.g. real estate or personal property (cash, checking and savings accounts, etc.) from the decedent to beneficiaries.
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The Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court frequently receive requests for assistance in preparing and/or filing forms required for a particular matter. Our staff are not permitted to offer opinions, directions or instructions on any matter that may be construed as legal advice. We provide, as required, many of the forms needed for estate administration, including the inheritance tax return. The offering of these forms is not a statement that no other forms are necessary or that those provided must be completed in every instance. The Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, acting as a conduit for the court, accepts filings for Orphans’ Court matters. The court, in accordance with federal, state and local rules and statutes, determines the correctness of the filings. The Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court have prepared the information provided on this website. Nothing contained herein is intended to be legal advice or to offer any opinion of the legal remedies available or appropriate in any particular circumstance. It is hoped that the information presented will merely be useful in answering frequently asked questions concerning the Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court.
The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, excluding holidays. Please check the county website to see which days we will be closed. Marriage applications and estate probates are accepted by appointment ONLY. Please go to our main website at www.chesco.org/wills or call 610-344-6335 to make an appointment. All other filings will be accepted until 4:15 pm.
Yes. Call the office at 610-344-6335. If you provide a name, we will search our records for that name. If a record is found, a file number is provided. Once you know the file number, more detailed information can be requested by mail. There is a nominal fee depending on the type of information requested.
The records go back to 1924 for Register of Wills and Orphans’ Court. Marriage Licenses go back to 1930. Records are in various formats - paper, microfilm or scanned images. For records previous to these dates, contact the Chester County Archives Department at 610-344-6760 or visit chesco.org/archives.
ALL records in the Register of Wills, Orphans’ Court and Marriage License Department are open to the public with the exception of adoptions or any other records impounded by court order. Public access to adoptions and other impounded records require a court order.
This is the process more correctly known as Probate of the Will. The procedure requires that the original will and, if applicable, codicil(s) be brought to our office. The document(s) are reviewed for proper execution. Details such as the original signatures of the decedent and witnesses are checked. Due to the complexities of proper execution, it is strongly recommended that you contact an attorney for the preparation and probate of a will.
No. A will is not registered until the person who wrote it (testator) dies. It is important that someone, usually (the executor) knows where the will is kept or the name of the attorney who prepared it.
This expression refers to the process in which an estate personal representative is appointed. A Petition for Probate and Grant of Letters is completed by the attorney or person qualifying as personal representative. The filing of this petition is the first step required to open an estate. The petition is available as a fill-in form on this website.
There is no time limit or requirement to open an estate unless or until a short certificate or proof of appointment is requested to transfer an asset from the decedent to a beneficiary. If it is more than 21 years after death, a court order is required.
A short certificate is a document that is certified proof of the appointment of the estate personal representative (executor or administrator). It is required to gain access to the assets of the decedent. The term "short" certificate refers to the size of the document. The personal representative can request as many short certificates as necessary to complete the estate administration. There is no time limit to request extra short certificates.
We are required by law to retain the original will and codicil(s). Since all records in this office are permanent, that is kept "forever," the document(s) will always be available in paper form or as microfilm or scanned images. It is recommended that you make a copy of the original document(s) for your records before you come to the office.
A petition to admit a copy of the will to probate is required. This petition is not provided by this office. We strongly suggest that you contact an attorney for the form of the petition that must be prepared and presented to the Register of Wills to accept a copy of the will for probate.
"Letters" is a formal document appointing the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent died with a Will, the document is referred to as Letters Testamentary. If the person died without a will, the document is called Letters of Administration. Estate administration typically requires more than this one document certifying the appointment of the personal representative. Rather than the formal letters, short certificates are provided as proof that the letters were issued by the Register of Wills.
No, however, due to the complexity of the process, it is strongly recommended that an attorney be engaged. This office provides the form for the Petition for Letters and other forms that may be required but cannot offer any direction or legal advice as to the preparation.
The order of appointment is very detailed and specific. Usually, the spouse is the first one to qualify. If there is no spouse, then the children can apply to be appointed. These situations often require the advice of an attorney.
Please be advised that this list is not all inclusive. There may be other forms or actions required that cannot be determined until the documents provided are reviewed by this office.
No. This office functions only as an agent for the filing of the Inheritance Tax Return and the payment of the inheritance tax. This means that we accept the return and payment and send them to the Commonwealth. The staff is not trained to give direction or advice concerning the correct completion of the return or calculation of the tax. If you have questions that are not answered in the return instruction booklet, you should contact an attorney or an accountant for assistance. The Inheritance Tax Booklet with instructions is provided by this office at the time that the Estate is opened. To download forms and instructions from the Inheritance Tax Department, visit http://www.revenue.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.