Frequently Asked Questions


General Frequently Asked Questions


 

Where are you located?

 

Our offices are located on LEVEL L of the Butler County Government Center directly behind the old courthouse.

 

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

 

Probate/Administration records begin at 1800 & continue to the present.

Orphans' Court cases date back to 1800.

Marriage records begin at 1885.

Birth/Death certificate information is recorded for 1893-1905 ONLY.

All birth/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 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 & wish to obtain information from an adoption file, you must contact Judge Marilyn Horan for the proper paperwork.

 

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.

OR

You may mail your request for information together with research fee to:

 

The Honorable Sarah E. Edwards, M.A., J.D.

Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans' Court

POB 1208

Butler PA 16003

 

*ATTENTION* WE DO NOT DO RESEARCH OVER THE PHONE

 

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Register of Wills Frequently Asked Questions


 

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a probate/administration proceeding is on file in our office & that the Personal Representative's appointment has not been revoked.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 your family, heirs, and/or 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.

 

I can only find a copy of the will I'd like to offer for probate.  What can I do?

 

We suggest you contact an attorney to prepare a petition for a Register's Hearing.

 

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 urge you to at least speak to an attorney regarding the estate. Due to litigation liability, employees in this office cannot make any determinations or instruct you in any manner as to what is required to administer an estate. Also, we are not permitted 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 an Estate?

 

  1. TYPED Petition for Probate/Administration, Letters. PLEASE DO NOT HAND PRINT PETITIONS!

  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 the decedent’s estate.  We do NOT accept "unknown" values.

  6. Check or US Money Order for probate fees (based on the estimated value ). See fee schedule for details.

 

Can your office help me prepare 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/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 forms/instructions from the PA Department of Revenue's website Inheritance Tax Department.

 

For other frequently asked questions regarding Inheritance Tax, click here.


If you have questions that are not answered in the instruction booklet, you should contact an attorney or an accountant for assistance. You may also phone the Department of Revenue's Information Line at 717/787-8327.

 

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Clerk of Orphans' Court Frequently Asked Questions


 

I was adopted and want to locate my birth parents. How do I access adoption records?

 

Adoption information is confidential and the records are sealed (impounded) by the Court.  Only the Court may access those files.  All requests for non-identifying information or the appointment of a search agent are handled by a judge.  You may send requests to our office, marked "CONFIDENTIAL," and we will direct them to the appropriate judge.

 

I adopted a child in a foreign country. How do I get a PA birth certificate for the child?

 

To obtain a PA Birth Certificate based upon a foreign adoption proceeding, PA residents must bring all ORIGINAL foreign documents including the adoption certificate and the certified English translations for each document to our office.

 

Adoptive parent(s) will be asked to complete a form that requires a social security number and a statement of citizenship/residency. This form provides the information required to complete the Vital Records forms. We certify and forward the requisite documents to Vital Records. Adoptive parents will be provided a birth certificate application form and must send it separately to Vital Records with a copy of their photo ID, payment. We are no longer permitted to obtain the birth certificate for you.

 

Adoption regulations, laws vary from country to country. While adoptions from some countries permit a simple registration, others may require a readoption Hearing in PA Courts. You should consult with your adoption agency and an attorney well versed in foreign adoptions immediately to ensure the future of your child's welfare.

 

How do I get appointed as the guardian of a minor child or incapacitated person?

 

This matter requires the services of an attorney.  We suggest that you contact your attorney or the Butler County Bar Association at 724.283.7359 for a referral.

 

What are the requirements to apply for a marriage license?

 

See marriage license information page. (click here)

 

 

How do I get a certified copy of my marriage license?

 

IF you applied for your license in Butler County, you will receive one certification of your record via mail after we receive the marriage return from your officiant. Additional copies may be obtained in person for $5 each or by mail for $5 research plus $5 per certification.

OR

You may mail a request for the duplicate certificate/certified copy of the application. There is a $5 research fee plus the cost of the certificate/certification(s).  When making a request by mail, payment must be made via US Money Orders ONLY.  We do not accept personal checks for marriage license certifications.  This method also requires a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return mailing.

 

IF you applied for your license in another county, you must contact the county where you applied for your license.

 

We are getting married on a cruise, island, or in another state/country. Where do we get our marriage license?

 

You must get your license in the State or country where the marriage will take place. Check with your travel agent for requirements. Foreign countries usually require Apostilles from the PA Department of State. Information from them can be obtained by calling (717) 787-5280 or by emailing them - PA Department of State.

 

Can I register my marriage in PA if it takes place in another country or state?

 

NO. Your marriage will never be registered anywhere other than the place (county/state/country) where you applied for your license.

 

Is there a central registry of marriage in PA?

 

NO. In Pennsylvania, records of marriage licenses are maintained only in the county where you applied for the license.  If you applied in Butler County, but were married in another county within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, your records would only be in Butler County.

 

Where should I obtain my marriage license if I am being married in a different county other than the one I live in?

 

You can apply in any county of the Commonwealth and use the license in any other county of the Commonwealth. Just remember where you applied in order to retrieve records for future needs.

 

Do I need a licensed minister or priest to perform my marriage ceremony?

 

PA law clearly lists those who are recognized to officiate at marriage ceremonies.

 

If individuals choose to be married by someone other than those listed as an ordained minister of a regularly established congregation OR a civil official authorized by PA law, the burden of proof regarding legality (or lack thereof) is on the individuals involved should future issues arise that require a determination of the marriage's validity. WE DO NOT DETERMINE WHAT IS OR IS NOT A CHURCH/CONGREGATION.

 

Does PA recognize common-law marriages?

 

NO.  PA courts have ruled common-law marriages after September 17, 2003, are invalid for the state of Pennsylvania.

 

Are same sex marriages legal in PA?

 

Yes, same sex marriages are legally recognized in Pennsylvania.

 

My child is under 18 and wants to marry. What steps does s/he have to take?

 

Any person between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of the CUSTODIAL parent (ID, documentation of legal custody required from the custodial parent).  Anyone between the ages of 14 and 16 will need the custodial parent's consent PLUS COURT APPROVAL.

 

Why do you need my SSN (social security number) to apply for a marriage license?

 

The 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Act 98-127 requires the verified Social Security number of an individual (who has one) in order to apply for a marriage license.

 

Marriage applications are public record. I do not want my SSN viewed by the public.

 

The SSN is protected by federal, state law. It is available only to authorized personnel as specified under the law.  It does not appear on the application itself, or on any other public documents of this office.

 

What if I have a SSN, but refuse to provide it?

 

Federal & State statutes do not permit us to take any marriage application without your Social Security Number.

 

What happens if I do not have a SSN?

 

Provision is made for those who do not have a SSN such as non-citizens.  The application is taken and the license is issued.  All US citizens are required to provide us with their Social Security Number.

 

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