Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update to Probate Petition in PA

Effective December 26, 2010, the registers of wills in Pennsylvania should be considering an additional concern in the processing of the standard probate form, RW-02, the Petition for Probate and Grant of Letters.  This form has remained unchanged since instituted in 2006.  See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting New Uniform Orphans' Court Forms in PA (10/18/06).

This change was necessitated due to the passage of Senate Bill 53, PN 2228, which was signed by the Governor as Act 85 of 2010, to become effective on December 26, 2010.

The Act inserted into the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code new provisions that eliminates a spouse's interest in an estate if a divorce action is pending (instead of finalized, as formerly provided), and if the grounds for divorce have been established.

In an updated form, language would be added to the statements of exceptions  that would change the effect of a testamentary disposition, as follows: “and was not a party to a pending divorce proceeding at the time of death wherein grounds for divorce had been established as defined in 23 PA C.S. § 3323(g).”

The Register of Wills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, posted an updated RW-02 Form customized for that County, with the following explanation:

Act 85 of 2010 has made changes to the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code effective December 26, 2010.  These changes have necessitated the addition to the Petition for Grant of Letters of the following language:
(Newly added language is underlined)

Except as follows, Decedent did not marry, and did not have a child born or adopted after execution of the documents offered for probate; was not the victim of a killing and was never adjudicated incapacitated and was not a party to a pending divorce proceeding at the time of death wherein grounds for divorce have been established as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. section 3323(g).

These changes impact the Petition for Grant of Letters Testamentary and the Petition for Grant of Letters of Administration.  The Petition for Letters provided on this website reflects this newly added language.
At least one vendor, The Lackner Group, has included a revised RW-02 Form as a template to be printed by their proprietary software (12/14/10 software revision).

Pending wider dissemination of a revised RW-02 Form, a typed or handwritten addition to an existing form should address the additional concern, presented by the new law, at probate.

Update: 10/13/2011:

On October 11, 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved a revision of a Form RW-02 (Petition for Grant of Letters) (PDF, 2 pages) for use in all Registers of Wills offices in the Commonwealth beginning thirty days later, on November 10, 2011. See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting Revised PA RW-02 "Petition for Grant of Letters" (10/13/11).