Register of Wills
The Register of Wills has jurisdiction over the probate of wills and granting of letters to a personal representative. Acting as the Commonwealth’s Agent, the register is responsible for collecting the Pennsylvania inheritance tax and filing the inheritance tax return.
The Register of Wills is responsible for:
- Maintaining, preserving and providing public access to records relating to probate including wills and letters of administration
- Estate inventories
- Inheritance tax records
- Administrator bonds
- Executor and administrator oath
- Various reports
The Register is authorized to issue subpoenas, citations, administer oaths and affirmations, and has the power to revoke letters of administration.
The Register of Wills collects the Inheritance Tax for the State. If tax is paid within 3 months of the date of death the estate gets 5% abatement. The tax is at par for 9 months from the date of death and after 9 months penalty must be paid.
The information on this website is not an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider. For specific questions about any legal matter, you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. Members of the Register of Wills office staff cannot provide legal advice or attorney referrals. The Wayne County Bar Association maintains a list of members.
What is a Will
A Will is a written document which directs the manner of distribution of anything owned at death by the writer of the will. The will should name an executor whose job it is to probate or file the will after death and carry out its instructions. Making a will is one of the most important things a person does.
Making a Will
To make a will in Pennsylvania, the person making the will must be of sound mind and 18 years of age or older. Everyone, wealthy or of modest means, should have a will. This guarantees that your lifetime accumulations are given to those persons or institutions that you wish to benefit.
Contrary to what some believe, a will does not get filed with the register during the lifetime of the maker. It is filed or probated by the register only after death occurs. This permits the maker to change or rewrite his will as circumstances require and to keep its term confidential during his lifetime. After a will is presented to the Register of Wills for probate it then becomes public record.
Absence of a Will
Pennsylvania intestate law controls the distribution of an estate when there is no will. The law does not take into consideration the special needs of any individual or family where the one dying has left no will. Furthermore in the absence of a will the register must appoint an administrator who may have to post a bond, which causes additional expense in the settlement of the estate.
The Wayne County Historical Society maintains an online database containing more than 50,000 items to aid in genealogical research, which can be accessed here.