The following article will provide some helpful information regarding the role of the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court.
What is the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court?
The purpose of the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Division, one of three divisions of the Court of Common Pleas, is to serve and protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities who are otherwise incapable of managing their own affairs. Though the term “orphan” has the typical connotation of a child who has lost his or her parents, the term’s meaning in this context is derived from the general definition of “one who lacks protection.” The Orphans’ Court’s jurisdiction extends to minors, incapacitated persons, decedents, trusts, principals, and agents under powers of attorney, non-profit charitable organizations, cemetery companies, inalienable property, and marriage licenses.
What types of cases are heard in Orphans’ Court?
The Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court has jurisdiction to hear any of the following types of cases:
- Decedents’ estates: The administration and distribution of the real and personal property of decedents’ estates and the control of the decedent’s burial
- Testamentary trusts: Matters relating to the administration and distribution of the real and personal property of testamentary trusts (trusts to be created upon one’s death)
- Inter Vivos trusts: Matters relating to the administration and distribution of the real and personal property of inter vivos trusts (trusts created during one’s lifetime)
- Minors’ estates: The administration and distribution of the real and personal property of minors’ estates
- Custodianship for minors’ property: Matters relating to the custodianship of the property of minors
- Guardian of persons of minors: Matters relating to the appointment, control, and removal of the guardian of a minor
- Adoptions: Matters relating to the adoption of minors
- Birth records: Matters relating to issues concerning recordation of birth and birth records or the alteration, amendment, or modification of such birth records or the right to obtain a certified copy of those records
- Incapacitated persons’ estates: Matters relating to the administration and distribution of the real and personal property of the estates of incapacitated persons
- Absentees’ and presumed decedents’ estates: Matters relating to the administration and distribution of the real and personal property of absent persons and of presumed decedents
- Fiduciaries: Matters relating to the appointment, control, settlement of the accounts of, removal and discharge of, and allowance to and allocation of compensation among all fiduciaries of estates and trusts
- Specific performance of contracts: Matters relating to the enforcement of performance by either party of any agreement made by a decedent to purchase or sell real or personal property
- Construction of administrative power: Matters relating to the construction of an administrative power as to real estate proposed to be exercised by a fiduciary of an estate or trust
- Disposition of title to real estate to render it freely alienable: Matters relating to the disposition of any interest in real estate of one disabled from dealing with it when title to it has been acquired by descent or will
- Title to personal property: Matters relating to the adjudication of the title to personal property in the possession of the personal representative, registered in the name of the decedent or his nominee, or alleged by the personal representative to have been in the possession of the decedent at the time of his death
- Marriage licenses: Matters relating to obtaining marriage licenses
- Inheritance and estate taxes: Matters relating to inheritance and estate taxes
About Hon. Emil Giordano
Honorable Emil Giordano, Co-Chair of the Norris McLaughlin, P.A. law firm’s Litigation Practice Group, focuses his practice on estate and commercial litigation, and mediation and arbitration. Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District, from 2004 through 2018. He was Northampton County’s first administrative Judge of the Orphans’ County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county, and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court. He was also the first Judge in Pennsylvania to institute guardianship certification requirements to protect senior citizens.
About Barbara Hollenbach
Barbara L. Hollenbach focuses her practice on workers’ compensation, professional liability, products liability, and general litigation. Barbara was the first woman elected president of the Northampton County Bar Association. A past chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Law Section, she is certified as a specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Workers’ Compensation Law, as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 2013, Barbara was inducted as a Fellow of The College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers. Barbara has co-authored and co-presented the Pennsylvania Bar Institute Workers’ Compensation Practice & Procedures manual and course since 2000.
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