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Begin the probate process (without a will)

When a person dies without a will, they have died “intestate.” In cases where someone dies intestate, the Register of Wills will appoint someone to administer the estate. Usually, the estate administrator is a spouse or child of the person who died.

To be recognized as the estate administrator, you must file the petition for grant of letters of administration with the Register of Wills. You’ll also need to pay the estate administration fees.


The “decedent,” or person who died, must have:

  • Been a Philadelphia resident at the time of their death.
  • Or, held real property in Philadelphia without holding personal property in any other state.

There is a different probate process if the decedent left a will.


The fees depend on the size of the estate. For more information, view the fee schedule.


Contact the Probate Department to schedule an appointment.

You can contact us at (215) 686-6255 or Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

City Hall
Room 180
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Prepare your documentation and payment.

You’ll need to bring:

  • An original death certificate.
  • An estimate of the estate’s value.
  • A valid, current form of ID.

You’ll also need to pay the estate administration fees. You can use Visa, Mastercard, a certified check, or a money order.

Complete the petition for grant of letters of administration at your appointment.

The Register of Wills will help you complete your paperwork, but they cannot provide legal advice. It may be helpful for you to hire an attorney to provide advice, answer legal questions, and help you through the process.

What happens next

Sole beneficiaries typically qualify as an administrator. If there are multiple heirs, the heirs must come to an agreement and either:

  • Renounce to a sole administrator; or
  • Act together as co-administrators.

If an agreement can’t be reached, one or all of the heirs may file a petition for a hearing. The Register of Wills may decide on whom to appoint, and may even select an independent administrator if needed.