Matters involving decedent’s estates, trusts, wills, guardians of the persons and estates of minors and incapacitated persons, powers of attorney, termination of parental rights and adoptions, civil commitments, marriage licenses, nonprofit associations, and inheritance and estate tax matters are heard in the Orphans’ Court.
The Orphans’ Court addresses adoptions, domestic and foreign, involving private agencies located in and outside of Allegheny County, as well as cases arranged through private (non-agency) intermediaries. With the exception of cases involving Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families, which are handled through Juvenile Court, all other adoption matters in Allegheny County, including termination of parental rights and searches for biological parent(s) are processed by the Orphans’ Court Adoption Department. Children who have been adopted in foreign countries may also be re-adopted through the Orphans’ Court if required by immigration and naturalization.
Audits, Estates and Trusts
The Audit Department examines all accounts and petitions for distribution filed with the Orphans’ Court relating to decedents’ estates, trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianship of incapacitated persons and minors. Following a hearing before an auditing judge, decrees of distribution are prepared. The department is also responsible for reviewing petitions for settlement and distribution of small estates, estate settlement agreements, and for monitoring the filing of proofs of deposit and purchase of annuities in cases involving minors and incapacitated persons.
The Civil Commitment Department schedules hearings following emergency commitment proceedings under the Mental Health Procedures Act, 50 P.S. Section 7101, et seq. Hearings are held at hospitals/facilities located within Allegheny County and are conducted by Mental Health Review Officers employed by the Orphans’ Court. Attorneys from the Allegheny County Law Department represent the petitioners (the person requesting the commitment), and the Public Defender’s Office represents the respondents (the person being committed). Petitions for review of civil commitment recommendations issued by Mental Health Review Officers are heard by Orphans’ Judges.
The Guardianship Department processes cases involving the appointment of guardians for minors and incapacitated individuals. Department investigators review petitions and requests for allowance for the payment of legal or guardianship fees or when invading the principal of the incapacitated person’s estate. Annual and final reports filed by guardians are reviewed by Department personnel. This Department is also responsible for monitoring the filing of inventories by guardians of the estates of minors and incapacitated persons and for investigating petitions for allowance that are made by parents and guardians to access a minor’s funds for the care and maintenance of the minor.