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What to know about Orphans' Court Litigation

Orphans' Court litigation does not necessarily involve cases for children with deceased parents. However, it sometimes can.

In Pennsylvania, the lowest level courts are known as the Courts of Common Pleas. In Allegheny County, the Courts of Common Pleas are separated into four divisions: Civil Division, Criminal Division, Family Division and Orphans' Court Division.

Orphans' Court received its name from the idea that orphans are "lacking protection." Orphans' Court litigation deals with cases involving people who cannot take care of themselves. Many of these people include incapacitated individuals or minors, who are being looked after by guardians, or the estates or trusts of decedents, which are being handled by executors or trustees.

Orphans' Court litigation deals with a wide variety of issues. Commonly, cases decided in the Orphans' Court Division might involve:

  • Appointing and auditing guardians
  • Resolving inheritance issues
  • Distributing estates and trusts to beneficiaries
  • Handling beneficiary and fiduciary disputes

These issues can arise for a variety of reasons, including an agent under a power of attorney using the principal's assets for personal use or a trustee using trust assets for personal use. Many Orphans' Court disputes occur over disagreements regarding the terms of a will or trust. Or, someone needs a guardian due to becoming incapacitated not planning ahead by having powers of attorney prepared.

Understanding Orphans' Court litigation in Pennsylvania can be extremely difficult. If you have a matter involving a minor or incapacitated person who is unable to care for themselves, or involving the estate or trust of a decedent, consult with an experienced Orphans' Court attorney to discuss your options.

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