The Orphans' Court serves to protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities that may not be otherwise capable of handling their own affairs. The jurisdiction of the Orphans' Court includes matters concerning minors, incapacitated persons, decedents' estates, nonprofit corporations and trusts. Additionally, the Court has the authority to settle any dispute or issue that may arise in connection to the application for a marriage license through the Philadelphia Marriage License Bureau. It is the main focus of the Orphans' Court, in all the abovementioned matters, to ensure that the best interests of the person or entity are not compromised. In fact, the name of the Court is derived from the general definition of "orphan" as one lacking protection, not the common association of a child deprived by death of his parents.
Presently there are three Judges assigned to the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas: Administrative Judge Joseph D. O'Keefe, Judge Matthew D. Carrafiello, and Judge John W. Herron. The Judges' duties consist of adjudicating disputes over the administration of decedent' estates which includes approving accounts of administrators/executors; appointing guardians for both minors and incapacitated persons; resolving appeals from the Register of Wills, including will contests; handling inheritance and estate tax disputes, handling matters concerning non-profit and charitable corporations, approving dissolutions of hospitals and museums and approving civil settlements involving minor plaintiffs and/or estates.
The following materials on incapacity proceedings were made available to the bar by Judge O'Keefe as part of a CLE Course. They are intended for informational use only and should not be considered official court or court endorsed forms.