In 1682, the Orphans’ Court of PA was formed to protect orphaned children and their inheritance.  Pennsylvania has retained the name “Orphans’ Court”, which is now a division of the Courts of Common Pleas. Today, the Orphans’ Court does far more than protect orphans.  According to Chapter 7 of Title 20 of Pennsylvania’s Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, the Orphans’ Court has the power to make legal decisions and judgments in the following 23 matters:

  1. Decedents Estates
  2. Testamentary Trusts (a trust created through a Last Will and Testament)
  3. Inter vivos trusts (a trust created while a person is living.  Inter vivos means”while alive”.)
  4. Minors’ Estates
  5. Guardian of property for minors
  6. Guardian of persons of minors 
  7. Adoptions
  8. Custody of minors
  9. Birth Records
  10. Incapacitated persons’ estates
  11. Absentees’ and presumed decedents’ estates
  12. Fiduciaries of estates and trusts, i.e. Executors, Administrators, Trustees
  13. Specific performance of contracts made by a decedent to purchase or sell real or personal property
  14. Proceedings for enforcement of Legacies, annuities and charges placed on real or personal property
  15. Construction of administrative power
  16. Disposition of title to real estate to render it freely alienable
  17. Title to personal property of decedent
  18. Appeals and proceedings from registers
  19. Marriage licenses
  20. Inheritance and estate taxes
  21. Nonprofit corporations
  22. Agents (matters about the exercise of powers by agents acting under power of attorney)
  23. Digital assets (matters involving access to digital assets)

Examples of matters which may need to be presented to the Orphans’ Court can include the following:

  1. If someone is incapacitated and unable to make decisions/care for themselves, a person can petition the court to request to become a guardian.
  2. If an interested person feels a will was signed by a decedent under coercion or undue influence, a Will Contest can be filed with the Orphans’ court.
  3. If an individual feels an agent under a power of attorney or a personal representative for an estate or a trustee for a trust is not abiding by his or her fiduciary duty, a challenge can be made in the Orphans’ Court.
  4. If an estate is valued at less than $50,000, a small estate petition can be presented to have the assets handled without probate.

Quite often, an attorney is needed to navigate and understand the court rules and law surrounding such matters.  As a seasoned litigator, I am ready, able and willing to go to court on behalf of my clients to resolve matters that are within the unique jurisdiction of the Orphans’ Court.