Estates

Living persons do NOT have wills on file at the Register of Wills office. Original wills are usually kept secure by the attorney who prepared the will, in the vault of a trust department, or in a safe deposit box belonging to the testator (person who wrote the will).

Being named executor in a will does not confer any authority until the will is probated. This authority is granted by the Register of Wills in a document called Letters.

A short certificate is our certification that an estate proceeding is on record in our office, we can only issue them after probate. You may purchase as many short certificates as necessary from the Register’s Office at any time AFTER the formal opening of an estate or probate of a will.

If we do not have an estate, we cannot issue a short certificate – regardless of what banks, post office or others have told you.

The requirements to probate a will are as follows:
• A typed petition for probate and grant of letters.
• An original will, as well as any codicils.
• An original death certificate.
• Personal appearance of executor(s).
• Witnesses to will (not necessary if will is self-proven) or Notarized Affidavit of Subscribing Witness (as).
• Certified English translation if will written in a foreign language.
• Typed, conformed copy of any handwritten will.
• A check to cover probate fees (based on value of estate).
Wills are accepted for probate only in the county where the decedent was legally domiciled at the time of death.

When there is no will, the process is basically the same but uses different terminology. An administrator is appointed pursuant to the Intestate Succession Laws. The Register of Wills grants Letters of Administration. The decedent’s estate is then distributed according to a formula which is also set forth by law. These “intestacy” laws name the beneficiaries and the amount to which they are entitled.

The Probate, Estates, and Fiduciaries Code Section 3101 authorizes any bank/financial institution to release up to $3,500 to surviving spouse, any child, mother/father, sibling of the decedent without a short certificate. You will need to furnish an original death certificate and a copy of the paid funeral bill (or an affidavit from the funeral director that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the payment).

Insurance companies may release up to $11,000 to named family members rather than to the estate. Also included in the act are patient accounts (not exceeding $3,500) which have been kept by various health care institutions.

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