In the orphans` court, our papers are never called “Joe Smith vs. Suzy Smith.” Instead, we file documents with the orphans` court asking people who held money to explain what they did with that money, or we file motions asking the court to decide that our client is entitled to some or all of the money in question. Almost nothing significant happens in the orphans` court unless the trustee opens an account. What for? An account is like a giant spreadsheet that exports every dollar in and out while the trustee controls the money. If we do not see this report, we do not necessarily know where to start to investigate the situation. Beneficiaries do not have to find out for themselves what happened. The trustee must tell the beneficiaries – and the orphans` court – exactly what happened to the fund, when and why. After all, fiduciaries have positions of trust. And anyone who can`t explain to you right away, with receipts and bank statements, exactly what they did with every dollar they held in trust should be fired immediately. As stated in an earlier Juvenile Court opinion, a juvenile court judge may ignore the facts and ignore the law if the strict application of the law leads to an “unjust outcome”, since the only obligation of the juvenile judge is to ensure a “fair” outcome of a particular situation.
See for example: In re: Cave`s Estate, 26 Pa. D&C 295 (1936) (“Since the orphans` court is a court of equity, it applies the law with great informality, and rules of procedure relating only to the usual methods of practice must not become a means of committing injustice.”). From the birth of our court system until 1968, the state courts of Pennsylvania (our “Common Plea Courts”) were divided into “courts of law” and “courts of equity.” Whether you end up in court or in court depends on the type of relief you are seeking. Centuries ago, English courts dealt “as a matter of law” with claims for damages (think cases of infringement or personal injury). “Equity” lawsuits involved claims for legal protection that did not involve financial damages (think divorce or child custody or disputes between co-owners of land over whether a landlord can build a house on that land). Except in exceptional cases, Mr. Badguy never issues a personal cheque or transfers an asset to an individual beneficiary, regardless of what he has done. Because the orphan court focuses only on protecting the fund and making sure that someone replenishes the fund in the right amount. For example, the orphans` court does not care that you suffered psychological anguish when, after your mother`s death, you learned that your sister, acting as an agent under a power of attorney, looted your mother`s bank account and changed all her life insurance beneficiary designations to her. The Orphans` Court, a real court, is only concerned with protecting the fund and ensuring that the money is in order. We don`t always learn exactly what happened from an account. And some traitorous trustees file the dreaded “zero account,” in which they claim they “never negotiated” (usually as an agent) and therefore cannot be held “accountable” to anyone.
Oh yes, Mr. Villain, I see that your 94-year-old mother transferred her entire fortune electronically in the name of your children, but you never touched the money and have nothing to do with it. Very interesting. The Orphans` Court (appointed for its historical role as protector of “widows and orphans”) has always been a separate “court of fairness”. It has its own rules, procedures and common law (judicial decisions) that have been developed over the centuries. People turn to the orphans` court to resolve disputes about estates, trusts, guardianship for people with disabilities, and matters related to the conduct (or misconduct) of officers under authority. Please note that Forms G-05 Guardian`s Inventory for an Insignificant Person, G-02 Guardian`s Report and G-03 Guardian of the Estate Report can all be filed electronically directly with the Orphans` Court Clerk through the Guardianship Tracking System (SWS). If you wish to file your application electronically, please contact your county juvenile court clerk to obtain an access code. After receiving an access code, please visit ujsportal.pacourts.us/ and select the GTS icon for step-by-step instructions on how to create your secure account.
I am often asked what the orphans` court is and why is it called that? The other question is: What does the orphans` court do? To begin with, some, if not most, States refer to this type of court as the “probate court” and sometimes as a “substitute court”. These courts decide on the validity of wills, apply the provisions of valid wills, monitor the correct distribution of the deceased`s property, prevent fraud and other misconduct by executors and executors, and ensure the equitable distribution of the property of deceased persons without a valid will (“intestation”). When I first meet with a client about an orphan court case, I begin with a brief explanation of this unique court system and how its judges think. It is important to understand these basic concepts early in any situation before the orphan court so that it is easy to understand what happens, when it happens and why. For my clients reading this article now, this basic “introduction” will also help you understand why I can recommend certain actions along the way. In 1968, Pennsylvania officially merged its “law” and “equity” courts into a single court, the Court of Common Pleas. The Orphans` Court is now a “division” of the Court of Common Pleas. The fact that the Orphans` Court is a separate “division” of the Court of Common Pleas in a particular county underscores the fact that the Orphans` Court is fundamentally different from the civil division of the Court of Common Pleas – the court where most of the people involved in litigation meet. The orphans` court always listens to the lawyers, not the family! The lawyer can tell all kinds of lies, and the judge really believes them! The court-appointed guardian is a person who cares less about your loved one, and I seriously doubt that the court will ever check these people (even after many complaints) And if you ever call the court, expect someone rude!!!!! They never know what I`m talking about, and their website is almost always down. If I could give 0 stars, I would. No, indeed. Instead, the juvenile court judge is the ultimate advocate and protector of the fund in question, and the juvenile court will protect that fund and ensure that the fund is distributed to the right beneficiary in accordance with the law, regardless of anyone`s “feelings” and regardless of personal perception of “what is right in the circumstances.” In 1958, the United States Supreme Court upheld the appointment of private trustees and allowed Girard College, as a private school, to determine its own admissions policy.
Soon after, Raymond Pace Alexander became the first black judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, meaning he had to stop practicing law and could no longer pursue the case in court. Nevertheless, Alexander`s personal correspondence shows that he never gave up his efforts to end segregation at Girard College, although the subject calmed down until the mid-sixties, when Cecil B. Moore led a picketing campaign in front of Girard College. Notably, the end of the Philadelphia Orphans` Court`s involvement in the Girard College case marked the beginning of the development of the civil rights movement away from Raymond Pace Alexander`s legislative and legal approach to justice against Cecil B. Moore`s more radical style, which served as a precursor to the more vocal and activist-inspired civil rights movement that transformed our nation. People fight in court for the sick and dead and their property, almost as long as people die. While this may be your first trip to the orphans` court, and while each family is of course different and special in its own way, know and accept the reality that the juvenile court has seen all sorts of cases, including yours. Names change, of course, and every family planning and estate document and every situation is of course unique to every orphan court case, but believe me when I tell you that experienced juvenile court judges and practitioners have seen your kind of case countless times. While most people involved in orphan court situations may proclaim that their fight is really “not about money” or that they “really and only” focus on “Dad`s best interests” or “just trying to achieve what mom wanted,” it`s almost always about money.