Real Property Probate and Trust – Probate Division COVID-19 Resources

  1. Probate Procedures – Certain counties have modified hours and implemented procedures allowing virtual probate proceedings. Check the individual county websites for up-to-date information. For those counties that have already adopted procedures, see additional information on specific county websites referenced below:

Allegheny County – The court has taken the following action pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. No. 1952(B)(2)for the Orphans’ Court Division:

  • All scheduled conferences and hearings are suspended until further Order of Court.
  • All Emergency motions will be heard by audio or teleconference. Effective Thursday, March 26, 2020, emergency motions shall be emailed to emergencyorphansmotions@alleghenycourts.us .
  • Involuntary civil commitment hearings will continue as scheduled and will be conducted by audio or teleconference.
  • Until further Order of Court, the Orphans’ Court Division located in the Frick Building is closed to the Public. https://www.alleghenycourts.us/Home/Default.aspx

Beaver County – The Register of Wills has announced changes to procedures due to COVID-19. http://www.beavercountypa.gov/Depts/RegWills/Pages/default.aspx

Berks County – The Register of Wills Office has implemented a videoconferencing process for virtual probate proceedings. https://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/RegWills/Pages/default.aspx

Bucks County – Bucks County Register of Wills announces pilot program to open probate estates and see marriage licenses via videoconferencing http://www.buckscounty.org/docs/default-source/Coronavirus/e-probatee-marriagelicensespilot.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Butler Countyhttps://www.butlercountypa.gov/291/Register-of-Wills-Orphans-Court

Cambria Countyhttps://www.cambriacountypa.gov/register-of-wills-clerk-of-the-orphans-court-ofice.asp

Chester Countyhttps://www.chesco.org/168/Register-of-Wills-Orphans-Court

Centre County – Register of Wills announces the ability to process virtual probate through video conference. https://centrecountypa.gov/393/Register-of-Wills-Clerk-of-Orphans-Court

Crawford County -- The Register of Wills office has provided instructions for inheritance tax returns and inheritance tax payments. Probate of an estate will occur on an emergency need basis only. https://www.crawfordcountypa.net/RegisterRecorder/Pages/home.aspx

Cumberland County – The Register of Wills has announced operations in response to COVID-19. https://www.ccpa.net/125/Register-of-Wills

Dauphin County – The Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court has established emergency operations and virtual probate proceedings. https://www.dauphincounty.org/government/publicly_elected_officials/register_of_wills/index

Delaware County – Delaware County is providing limited virtual services. https://www.delcopa.gov/row/index.html

Fayette County – The Register of Wills has announced suspension of all business in Register of Wills and Orphan’s Court at the end of the business day March 19, 2020, until further notice. There is an exception for Emergency Petitions for Guardianship. https://www.fayettecountypa.org/511/Register-of-Wills

Forest County – The Register of Wills has published information about filing documents during the COVID-19 pandemic. http://www.co.forest.pa.us/departments/prothonotary.php

Franklin County – The Register of Wills has announced procedures for probating of Wills. https://franklincountypa.gov/index.php?section=government_register-record-office

Fulton County – Fulton County has issued an emergency order regarding access to the Register of Wills. https://www.co.fulton.pa.us/prothonotary.php

Greene County – The Greene County Register and Recorder has issued a public notice regarding changes to the process for probating wills. https://www.co.greene.pa.us/resources/7047

Juniata County – The County has announced changes to the Register of Wills Office in response to COVID-19. https://www.juniataco.org/covid-19-response/

Lackawanna County – Lackawanna County has implemented changes due to COVID-19 State of Emergency https://www.lackawannacounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020_03_18_11_16_40.pdf

Lancaster County -- Lancaster County and Court Offices are on modified operations for essential services and programs. For up-to-date information, visit https://co.lancaster.pa.us/

Lawrence County – The use of audio-visual technology for probate of wills is available. https://co.lawrence.pa.us/gov/register-of-wills-and-recorder-of-deeds/

Lehigh Countyhttps://www.lehighcounty.org/Portals/0/PDF/Deeds/VirtualProbateProceedings.pdf?ver=2020-03-26-151311-047

McKean County -- The Mckean County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphan's Court office will be open to the public by appointment only as of 8:00 am March 18, 2020 until April 13, 2020. For a copy of the declaration, visit https://www.mckeancountypa.org/other_elected_officials/register_of_wills_and_clerk_of_orphans_court/index.php

Monroe County – Register of Wills will not be conducting any probates or hearings until further notice. Filings can still be done through the mail. http://www.monroecountypa.gov/Dept/RegWills/Pages/default.aspx

Montgomery County – Limited services are available. https://www.montcopa.org/202/Register-of-Wills

Northampton County – Temporary virtual probate procedure. https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CRTSRVCS/REG-WILL/Documents/Virtual%20Probate%203-31-20.pdf

Perry County – For a COVID-19 update, visit http://www.perryco.org/Dept/RegisterAndRecorder/Documents/covid19update2.dox.pdf

Philadelphia County – The Register of Wills Office will offer Virtual Operations of Probate beginning on April 6th. These services will be provided on emergency basis only, BASED UPON CRITERIA ESTABLISHED BY THE REGISTER OF WILLS. For up to date information on the impact of COVID-19, visit http://secureprod.phila.gov/wills/

Potter County – Information regarding COVID-19 closures can be accessed here: https://pottercountypa.net/post.php?pid=19

Schuylkill County -- Services for the Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court office will continue, but the process has changed by appointment only. Virtual probate is available. https://www.co.schuylkill.pa.us/Offices/RegisterOfWills/index.asp

Somerset County – The office has implemented a continuity plan in response to COVID-19. http://www.co.somerset.pa.us/department.asp?deptnum=210

Sullivan County – The prothonotary has issued a COVID-19 operations statement. https://www.sullivancounty-pa.us/offices/prothonotary

Union County – Effective, April 6, 2020, virtual probate procedures are being offered. https://www.unioncountypa.org/departments/register-of-wills/register-of-wills/page.aspx?id=1407

Wayne County – The Register of Wills has established procedures for limiting public access. http://waynecountypa.gov/842/COVID-19-Response

Westmoreland Countyhttps://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=6131

York County -- Beginning 3/30/2020, York County Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court will be scheduling appointments for virtual will probates and marriage license applications using video conferencing. https://yorkcountypa.gov/courts-criminal-justice/court-courtrelated-offices/register-of-wills.html

  1. Inheritance Tax – The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has issued guidance addressing the filing of Inheritance Tax Returns and payment of Inheritance Tax while County Register of Wills Offices are closed and also addressing the filing of appeals and petitions for tax refunds with the Board of Appeals. https://www.revenue.pa.gov/Pages/COVID19.aspx#INHReturns
  1. IRS Tax filings – IRS has extended deadlines for filing of income tax returns and gift tax returns and payments of income tax and gift tax.
    1. IRS Notice 2020-18 (Income Tax Payment and Relief) – IRS updated and expanded Notice 2020-17 (which had previously extended tax filing deadlines) to provide that the due date for making Federal income payments and filing federal income tax returns due on April 15, 2020, has been automatically extended to July 15, 2020. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-18.pdf
    2. IRS Notice 2020-20 (Gift Tax Payment and Relief) – IRS updated Notice 2020-18 to provide the same three-month deferral for gift tax (and generation-skipping tax) returns and payments provided for income tax returns in Notice 2020-18. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-20.pdf
    3. IRS Notice 20-2023 – IRS updated and expanded Notice 2020-18 to provide relief for additional returns, tax payments and other actions. As a result, the filing and payment extensions generally now apply to all taxpayers that have a filing or payment deadline falling on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020. Individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers qualify for the extra time. 990 Series forms filed by tax-exempt organizations are also extended pursuant to this Notice. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-23.pdf
  1. Execution of Estate Planning Documents – Due to various stay at home orders in effect and other limitations on access to hospitals and/or assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, attorneys may not have access to meet with clients who wish to execute their estate planning documents. Notarization is not required for a will or health care power of attorney, but is necessary for a durable power of attorney. Various execution requirements for common estate planning documents in Pennsylvania are summarized below:
    1. Will – 20 Pa.C.S. 2502 – “A Will must be in writing and signed by the testator at the end thereof.”
    2. Power of Attorney – 20 Pa.C.S.A. 5601(b)
      1. Dated and signed by principal (either by signature, mark, or by another individual at direction of principal)
      2. Two (2) witnesses, (person who signed the Power of Attorney at direction of principal cannot be a witness)
      3. Acknowledged by a notary public or other individual authorized by law to take acknowledgments
    3. Health Care Power of Attorney – 20 Pa.C.S. 5452
      1. Dated and signed by principal (either by signature, mark, or by another individual at direction of principal)
      2. Two (2) witnesses, (person who signed the Power of Attorney at direction of principal cannot be a witness)
    4. Trust -- 20 Pa.C.S. § 7732
      1. The settlor signs a writing that indicates an intention to create the trust and contains provisions of the trust. (Other trust requirements must be met relating to capacity, identity of beneficiaries, trustee duties, etc. ,as set forth in 20 Pa.C.S. § 7732.
  1. Remote Notarization – Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a Remote Notorization law which would enable notaries public to notarize documents remotely through videoconferencing technology. However, the Pennsylvania Department of State has provided temporary limited relief for certain documents, effective as of April 2, 2020. https://www.dos.pa.gov/Documents/2020-04-02-Remote-Notarization.pdf

    Additionally, some states have previously enacted such legislation and other states have temporarily authorized remote notarization by executive order. In some of the states that have remote authorization laws in effect, the notary in that state may be able to notarize the signatures of persons located outside the state, if all other requirements can be met. Additional information on permanent notarization laws and emergency notarization laws or orders can be found at the following link https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/answers-urgent-questions-notaries-ron

 

 

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