CHAPTER 17
 
 
RESEARCHING WILLS,
PROBATE RECORDS,
AND INHERITANCE TAX RECORDS

 

 
 
 
 
A. Probate
Records for
Wills and
Administrations

Section 921 of the PEF Code provides that all probated wills shall be indexed and recorded by the Register, and shall remain in his office, except for the period required to be in the custody of a higher court.

All estate files, whether involving a Will or an intestacy, are assigned docket numbers, the index for which is located at Room 187, City Hall. For estates raised in 1980 or later, the index is computerized. A docket clerk will research the estate by the decedent's last name and provide the docket number. Both the index books and the computer index are updated daily.

It is possible to make a telephone inquiry to ascertain whether an estate has been raised for decedents dying in 1980 and after and to obtain the docket number by calling 215-686-6261 or 6262.

For estates raised prior to 1980, the docket number can only be obtained by manually checking the index books kept in Room 187, by locating the year of death in the appropriate range of years. The book must be searched for the letter of the decedent's last name, and then with the first letter of the decedent's first name. The last name "Smith" and the first names "Joseph" and "John" have their own listings. These books can be used to locate a Will or administration from 1682 to the present.

Since 1986, a single indexing system for all estates has been used. For searches prior to 1986, separate numbering systems were utilized for Wills and administrations, resulting in parallel numbering. Thus, both Will No. 1014 of 1983 and Administration No. 1014 of 1983 are in use for separate estates.

After the docket number is obtained, the actual file can be reviewed in Room 180, City Hall if the estate was opened within the past five years.

Files more than five years old are transferred to the City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia. The hours are subject to change but are now 8:30 to 4:30. At the Archives, the file will be available for examination in the common reading room. Copiers are available as well as readers and printers for those files on microfilm.

Older files may be ordered from the Archives and reviewed in City Hall if an advance request is made. Usually, one day's notice is adequate. Generally, there is no charge for this service if the attorney is requesting one file; however, for a number of files to be transferred to City Hall, there is a charge.

The initial probate documents from 1692 to 1992 are also copied on microfiche and may be examined in the Research Department, Room 185, City Hall. Later filings, such as inventories and correspondence to the Register of Wills, are copied on microfilm, but neither inheritance tax returns nor the federal estate tax returns required to be filed with the state are copied on microfilm.

 
 
 

 
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