CHAPTER 2
 
 
LETTERS TESTAMENTARY

 

 
 
 
 
B. Special
Problems

1. Probate of Signed Copy or Photograph of Signed Copy of Will
 

Generally, the Register will accept only an original Will bearing the original signature of the testator. Where a carbon or photocopy of the Will bears the original signature of the testator and is offered for probate, the Register will accept the signed copy without a hearing only if the unexecuted original Will is also produced. Both writings will be retained in the Register's file. In addition, a letter of explanation from the attorney may be requested as to why the copy was executed rather than the original and the letter will be made part of the record.

Where a signed Will is not an original (a signed photocopy) and the unsigned original is not presented, the signed Will will not be admitted to probate until a hearing is held so that an adequate explanation for the non-production of the original may be offered. The same is true if a photocopy of a signed original Will is offered for probate. The proponent of the signed copy or photocopy of a signed original must introduce evidence to rebut the presumption that the testator destroyed the original with the intention to revoke it. In either case, a Petition for Citation to Show Cause Why the Signed Copy of the Will or Photocopy of the Signed Will Should Not Be Admitted to Probate should be filed with the Register setting forth, in addition to the usual information, an explanation of when and where the original document was executed and why it cannot be produced (Appendix B, Form No. 1). The petition must list the names, addresses, and relationships of those persons (intestate heirs or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, if there are no other intestate heirs) who would be adversely affected by the proposed probate of a copy of the Will. A copy of the document sought to be probated should be attached to the petition. A citation will be issued by the Register to adversely affected parties to show cause why the signed copy should not be accepted as if it were an original. The citation will set a return date and the proponents must serve a copy of the petition and citation upon each party in interest at least 10 days prior to the return date. The procedure for serving the petition and citation and scheduling of the hearing and the manner in which the hearing is conducted are set forth in Chapter 11, entitled "Hearings Before the Register."

 
2. Holographic Will or Will with Strikeouts, Interlineations or Libelous Statements - "Copy Fair"
 
A holographic Will, i.e., one entirely in the handwriting of the testator, as well as other handwritten Wills, may qualify as a testamentary document and may be admitted to probate if signed by the testator and otherwise proven, but the Register requires a "copy fair" (a typewritten version of the instrument) to be submitted along with any handwritten Will. Similarly, where a Will offered for probate contains strikeouts, interlineations, libelous statements, or is otherwise difficult to read, a copy fair of those portions intended to be offered for probate must be submitted with the original Will. In some cases, a hearing or other substantiation may be required to establish the accuracy of the copy fair with respect to the original.
 
3. Will in Foreign Language
 
If a Will written in a foreign language is offered for probate, the person offering the Will must submit a typed translation of the Will together with an affidavit of the translator attesting to the accuracy of the translation. The translation to English is essential, among other things, to identify personal representatives, to ascertain whether bond has been waived, and to identify the residuary legatees in the event the named personal representative is deceased or unavailable. The accuracy of the translation is not actually a probate matter but a question of distribution which, if disputed, may be ultimately determined by the Orphans' Court.
 
 
 

 
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