Last revised 4/12/2013 (to fix links to forms)
To probate a will in Pennsylvania, or obtain letters of administration if the decedent died without a will, the following must be filed with the Register of Wills of the county in which the decided was domiciled (i.e., maintained his or her primary residence) at death.
- A petition either in the form supplied by the local county or in the form established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Form RW-02). Part of this form (the oath of the personal representative) must be signed in the presence of the Register of Wills, so the persons wishing to serve as executor or administrator must either go to the Register’s office or arrange for the Register to commission on official of another state to administer the oath.
- A death certificate with an official seal.
- The original will (if there is one) and all codicils (if any).
- A completed Estate Information Sheet, Form RW-01.
- A check for the filing fees (which are different in each county).
- Each person wishing to serve as executor or administrator should also bring proof of identity (such as a driver’s license), which the Register may require before administering the oath of office and granting the petition.
Depending on the circumstances, it may also be necessary to file:
- If the will has attached to it a notarized acknowledgment by the decedent and a notarized affidavit by the two subscribing witnesses (or one affidavit by both the decedent and the witnesses), the will is “self-proving” and it should be possible to probate the will without further proof of authenticity. If there are no attached affidavits, you will need signed and notarized oaths of witnesses. If possible, the oaths should be of the subscribing witnesses (i.e., the witnesses who originally signed the will as witnesses),Form RW-03. If the will was not witnessed, or the subscribing witnesses have died, moved out of state, cannot be located, or are otherwise unavailable, then witnesses who are familiar with the testator’s signature and can identify the signature on the will as the signature of the testator can complete Form RW-04, for non-subscribing witnesses.
- A signed and notarized renunciation (Form RW-06) for each person named as executor in the will (or entitled to letters of administration by law) who does not wish to serve. (For example, if a parent dies without a will and there are two children and only one wants to administer the estate, the other should sign a renunciation.)
For additional information and forms relating to practice before the Register of Wills of Philadelphia, see the Philadelphia Estate Practitioner’s Handbook. (Although written for Philadelphia County, many of the forms and procedures will be similar to those in other counties.)