C. Practice
and Procedure

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Orphans' Court Rules provide generally that the practice and procedure before the Register must be in substantial conformity with the practice and procedures approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or in the absence thereof, the practice and procedures of the local Orphans' Court Division.

Although there is no formal discovery, the Register encourages informal discovery as agreed upon by the parties prior to a formal hearing. The Register has the authority to issue subpoenas requiring any person in the Commonwealth to appear before the Register or to produce papers or records before the Register. A party desiring to subpoena an individual or documents for the hearing must obtain blank subpoenas at the Register's office for a nominal fee and serve the subpoenas in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure.

A $100.00 hearing fee will be assessed by the Register against one of the parties (generally the party with the burden of proof), prior to scheduling a formal hearing. The Register may request from counsel a written outline of the issues and the parties' respective positions, as well as a list of prospective witnesses. An additional $25.00 fee may be assessed by the Register against a party requesting a continuance of a formal hearing after the initial scheduling.

The hearing will be conducted in accordance with the rules of evidence. The parties must bring in a court reporter for the hearing and arrange for payment, unless the parties stipulate to dispense with a record of the testimony. At the close of the hearing, the Register may require, or counsel may offer, memoranda of law. A party desiring a transcript of the hearing should advise the court reporter at the conclusion of the hearing and pay for the transcript.

Upon the issuance of a Decree by the Register admitting or denying the petition for Letters, the parties have one year to appeal to the Orphans' Court (unless the appeal period is shortened by an Order of the Orphans' Court upon petition of an interested party). The Orphans' Court will hear the appeal de novo, unless the parties agree that the case may be heard on the testimony before the Register, or unless the appeal is from the Register's grant of Letters of Administration, in which case the court's review is limited to a determination of whether the Register abused his discretion. The transcript of the hearing before the Register is not forwarded on appeal to the Orphans' Court unless requested by a party. The appeal process is described more fully in Chapter 14.


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