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Where there is no will, the process is basically the same but uses different terminology. An Administrator is appointed pursuant to the Intestate Succession laws. The Register of Wills Grants Letters of Administration. The decedent's estate is then distributed according to a formula which is also set forth by law. These "intestacy" laws name the beneficiaries and the amount to which they are entitled. Contrary to the scare tactics of modern advertisements, the state does not take your assets.
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No. Living persons do not have wills on file at the Register of Wills office. Original wills are usually kept secure by the attorney who prepared the will, in the vault of a trust department, or in a safe deposit box belonging to the testator (person who wrote the will).
Being named does not confer any authority until the will is probated. This authority is granted by the Register of Wills in a document called Letters.
Because a short certificate is our certification that an estate proceeding is on record in our office, we can only issue them after the estate is raised. You may purchase as many short certificates as necessary from the Register's Office at any time after the formal opening of an estate or probate of will.
If we do not have an estate, we cannot issue a short certificate - regardless of what the banks, post office, or others may have told you.
No. Wills are accepted for probate only in the county where the decedent was legally domiciled at the time of death.
No, that would be the unauthorized practice of law. It is the duty and obligation of the personal representative (executor or administrator) to know what must be done, when it must be done, and how it must be done. If you have no knowledge of the legal administrative process for estates and/or the fiduciary laws of Pennsylvania, you should seek the help of legal counsel.
The Register of Wills and staff are not licensed to give legal advice. Professionals could actually save time and money in the long run due to their knowledge and experience.
Yes. Probate, Estates, and Fiduciaries Code Section 3101 authorizes any bank/financial institution to release up to $10,000 to surviving spouse, any child, mother/father, sibling of the decedent without a short certificate. You will need to furnish an original death certificate and a copy of the paid funeral bill (or an Affidavit from the funeral director that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the payment).
If you have problems with any bank refusing to follow the statutes, please contact us with the details including date, branch, decedent's name, and to whom you spoke. We will forward your complaint to the Pennsylvania Banking Commission.
Insurance companies may release up to $11,000 to named family members rather than to the estate.
All petitions for letters must include:
No certificates/letters may be issued until all procedures have been completed and requisite forms duly executed, fees paid. All fees must be paid at the time of filing.
All other requests for mailings (e.g, certified orders, receipts, photocopies, etc.) must include self-addressed, stamped envelope of adequate size and postage to cover request.