Do you have my will on file? 

No.   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).


If I am named in a will as Executor, what do I need to do?

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


How do I get a short certificate?

Because a short certificate is our certification that an estate proceeding is on record in our office, we can only issue them after the estate is raised.  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 will. 
If we do not have an estate, we cannot issue a short certificate - regardless of what the banks, post office, or others have told you. 


What documents and persons are required to probate a will?

  • A TYPED/ELECTRONICALLY PRINTED petition for probate and grant of Letters.  NO HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENTS are accepted for filing
  • An original Will, codicil ( if applicable)
  • 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(es)
  • Certified English translation if Will is written in a foreign language
  • Typed, conformed copy of any handwritten Will
  • Attorney/Bank certified check or US Money Order to cover probate fees (based on value of estate).  NO PERSONAL/Estate Checks will be accepted for county fees.  Butler County Legal Journal fee may be paid by any means.  (Newspaper ad is your responsibility)

NOTE:  Any flaw in the self-proving Affidavit may require witnesses' signatures 


Can I probate anywhere I want?

No. Wills are accepted for probate only in the county where the decedent was legally domiciled at the time of death.


Will you help me to probate/administer this estate?

No, that would be the unauthorized practice of law.  It is the duty and obligation of the personal representative (executor or administrator) to know what must be done, when it must be done, & how it must be done.   If you have no knowledge of the legal administrative process for estates and/or the fiduciary laws of PA, you should seek the help of legal counsel.  
The Register of Wills and staff are not licensed to give legal advice.  Professionals could actually save time and money in the long run due to their knowledge and experience.


What happens to the estate if the decedent died intestate (leaving no will)?

Where 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.  Contrary to the scare tactics of modern advertisements, the state does not take your assets.


Can any distribution be made without probate and grant of letters or a judicial decision (Orphans' Court)?

Yes. Probate, Estates, and Fiduciaries Code Section 3101 authorizes any bank/financial institution to release up to $10,000 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).  

If you have problems with any bank refusing to follow the statutes, please contact us with the details including date, branch, decedent's name, and to whom you spoke.  We will forward your complaint to the PA Banking Commission.
Insurance companies may release up to $11,000 to named family members rather than to the estate.   
Filing requisites for Estates are as follows:

ALL Petitions for Letters MUST INCLUDE:

  1. ORIGINAL Will (if any)
  3. ORIGINAL Death Certificate
  4. Notarized Renunciations (where applicable)
  5. Notarized subscribing Witness forms  (where applicable)
  6. Self-addressed, stamped envelope of adequate size and postage (IF you want Letters mailed)

NO Certificates/Letters may be issued until ALL procedures have been completed and requisite forms duly executed, fees paid.
ALL fees must be paid at the time of filing.

Payment Methods:

ONLY Attorney/Bank certified checks, US Money Orders, or Cash will be accepted for county filing fees. 

NO PERSONAL/Estate CHECKS for COUNTY FEES will be accepted.

Checks may be used for Legal Journal and Inheritance Tax Payments


  1. To "REGISTER OF WILLS" for probate fees.
  2. To "BUTLER COUNTY LEGAL JOURNAL" for advertising 
    (Estate name must be listed on checks)
  • No  “UNKNOWN” values will be accepted for gross estate. A reasonable estimated value will be the basis for the initial filing fees charged. Any difference in amounts will be billed at the time of filing the Inheritance Tax Return.
  • ALL Petitions for Letters must be signed by the personal representative in our presence (Signed exactly as named in will along with typed name & address)
  • Attorney of Record must include SIGNATURE in addition to ID number, typed name, address, & phone number on ALL FILINGS.
  • Decedent must have been a BUTLER COUNTY resident at the time of death.
  • Renunciations must be NOTARIZED (if done outside of office).
  • Bonds are required for all out-of-state administrators and executors (if not specifically excused from same in will).  Bonds will also be required in any estate where there are minor children or any other circumstance where Register deems it appropriate.
  • Subscribing witness forms must be NOTARIZED, if done outside of office.
  • Non-subscribing witness(es) must appear in person to sign.
  • Estate number, if any, must appear on Inheritance Tax filings.
  • All other requests for mailings (e.g., short certificates, receipts, photocopies, etc.) must include self-addressed, stamped envelope of adequate size and postage to cover request.

NOTE:  Any unopened estate still pending after six (6) months will be sent to archival storage.


Orphans' Court Filings:

  • ALL Orphans’ Court filings must have cover sheet with Attorney information (name, ID number, phone number, fax, email, etc.).
  • Orphans' Court captions must be correct. If not, you will be required to file a Motion to Correct Caption.  A "per correction" fee will be charged in addition to filing fees
  • Only ONE (1) name per case number/filing.
  • Original death certificate, original Will (if any), Consents/Joinders, and copy of REV1500 must be included in all Small Estate Petitions.  Two Original REV1500 must be filed with the Register of Wills prior to or simultaneously with the Small Estate Petition.

All other requests for mailings (e.g., certified orders, receipts, photocopies, etc.) must include self-addressed, stamped envelope of adequate size and postage to cover request.

Estate Forms