General Frequently Asked Questions

Where are you located?
Our offices are located in the Somerset County Courthouse
111. East Union Street, Suite 145
Somerset, PA 15501

What records do you have in these offices & for what time periods?

Probate records begin in 1795 and continue to the present Marriage records begin in 1885 Birth and Death certificate information is recorded for 1893-1905 only

All Birth and Death records from 1906 to the present are kept at the state level. Please visit the Bureau of Vital Records for more information.

What records can be viewed by the public?
All records in the Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court departments are open to the public with the exception of Adoption records. Adoption records are impounded by law and are available only by order of court. If you are an adult adoptee and wish to obtain information from an adoption file, please send a letter to Judge David C. Klementik.

Can I obtain any record from your office?
Yes, anyone is able to access non-impounded information anytime during normal hours of operation.

How may I obtain information from you?
You may come to the office to review any record during normal business hours.
You may mail your request for information together with the research fee to:
Sharon K. Ackerman
Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court
111 E. Union Street, Suite 145
Somerset, PA 15501

What does Probate mean?
Probate is the procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Are all wills open to the public?
Yes, all probate records are available to be viewed by the public, unless impounded by court order.

Why is a will registered or probated?
To authorize a representative to administer estate assets.

What does Intestate mean?
Intestate means someone dies without a will.

What is a Short Certificate?
A Short Certificate is a certification that a probate/administration proceeding is on file in our office and that the Personal Representative’s appointment has not been revoked.

When does a will get registered and filed?
A will is probated only after the testator dies. It is important to keep the will in a safe place before this time. You should also tell family, heirs, personal representative(s) the location of your will.

Why do you keep the original will?
We are required by law to keep the original will as a part of the permanent record.

What are Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration?
These are documents issued by the Register of Wills authorizing a person(s) to act as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. It is the authority required to marshal assets, access records, or make distribution.

Do I need an attorney to apply for these files?
We cannot mandate that you use an attorney. However, unless you know what, how, and when to do each step of the estate process, we would urge you to at least speak to an attorney regarding the estate. Due to litigation liability, employees in this office cannot make any determination or instruct you in any manner as to what is required to administer an estate. Also, we are not permitted to aid in the preparation of any forms.

Moreover, if you raise an estate and later discover it was not necessary to do so, we cannot refund any of the filing fees.

Who can be appointed Administrator?
The order of appointment is established by law.

What do I need to open and estate?
1. A typed Petition for Probate/Administration
2. Original will – if the decedent had one.
(Please make a copy for your records.)
3. Original death certificate
4. Person(s) who can qualify as Executor(s) or Administrator(s)
5. Approximate value of decedent’s estate.
6. Check for probate fees based on estimated value.

Can your office assist in the preparation of the inheritance tax form?
No. This office functions only as an agent for the Department of Revenue in the filing and processing of Inheritance Tax Returns and payments. The staff is not trained to give advice concerning the correct completion of the return or calculation of the tax.

The Inheritance Tax Booklet with instructions is available in our office or you may download form/instructions from the PA Department of Revenue’s website.

County Annex Office Building
300 North Center Avenue
Somerset, PA 15501
Somerset County Courthouse
111 East Union St.
Somerset, PA 15501