Register of Wills

ABOUT THE OFFICE – Register of Wills

The Register of Wills is an independently elected position which serves as both the Register of Wills and the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. 

The Register of Wills’ principal duties include probating wills and accepting for filing all documents necessary to complete the transfer of generational wealth, through proper administration of a decedent’s estate. If a person dies without a will, the Register, upon petition, will appoint an administrator of the estate. The Register is also the agent for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to collect inheritance tax. The office also issues all marriage licenses for Philadelphia County.

The Register of Wills holds a quasi-judicial position and, if necessary, conducts hearings to determine who should be appointed as executor or administrator of an estate. Some issues brought to a hearing involve issues like forgery, mental capacity and undue influence. The parties have a right to appeal the Register’s decision to the Orphans’ Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas.  

As Clerk of Orphans’ Court, the Register of Wills serves as the filing office and custodian of records for Orphan’s Court, which protects the personal and property rights of people and entities who are not capable of handling their own affairs. Orphans’ Court covers matters concerning minors, incapacitated persons, decedents’ estates, nonprofit corporations and trusts. It also can settle any dispute or issue connected to marriage license applications from the Philadelphia Marriage License Bureau.

In sum, the Register of Wills has a number of responsibilities including:

  • Issuing marriage licenses and keeping marriage records dating back to 1915.
  • Probating wills, proving that they’re valid.
  • Issuing letters of (estate) administration when a Philadelphia resident dies without a will.
  • Keeping records of wills, estate inventories, and related documents.
  • Acting as an agent for filing and paying inheritance taxes.
  • Maintaining the dockets and records of the Orphan’s Court.