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Register of Wills

[Record group 9]
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Agency Function
The Register of Wills, elected to a four-year term, has the responsibility to: probate wills ("probate" is official proof of an instrument offered as the last will and testament of a person deceased); grant letters of testamentary appointing will executors; issue letters of administration appointing estate administrators when persons die without a will and approve and file the accounts of executors and administrators. The Register's office records all wills, accounts, inventories and appraisals of estates.

In a separate capacity, the Register of Wills also serves as clerk of the Orphans' Court Division of the Common Pleas Court. As such, the Register supervises the Marriage License Bureau and performs administrative duties similar to those of the Prothonotary in the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts. As clerk of Orphans' Court, the Register of Wills issues marriage licenses and keeps a record of Orphans' Court proceedings, as well as estate accounts filed and settled. It carries out these activities under the supervision of the court judges.

Agency History
The Provincial Registers were the Registers-General of Pennsylvania for the Probate of Wills and Granting Letters of Administration, established by the 22nd section of the Laws agreed upon in England (Colonial Records, vol. 1) The Act of 14 March 1777 abolished the office of Register-General and named the Registers of Wills in each county to succeed the Deputies of the Register-General. Under Article V, Section 22 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania in 1874, the Register of Wills became ex-officio the clerk of the Orphans Court.

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Last updated on November 8, 2000