Clients often wonder where a loved one’s will is filed to begin the probate process.

The answer is that a person’s will must be filed in the county in which that person resided at the time of death. On a Pennsylvania death certificate, look at box 8d, titled Residence (County). When you file the will for probate, the clerk will check to see that the county listed there matches the county you’re filing in.

Under Pennsylvania law, a person’s residence is the place where the person lives with the intent to remain. For example, if Mabel owns a house in Allegheny County where she has lived for the past 35 years, but goes to stay with her daughter in Westmoreland County for a month to help take care of a newly born grandchild, Mabel’s residence remains Allegheny County. Mabel’s residence does not change because of her temporary absence.

But if Mabel decides to move in with that same daughter so that the daughter can help provide Mabel’s care, then her residence becomes Westmoreland County when she moves in. The difference is that in the second example, Mabel is not only present in Westmoreland County, she is now present there with the intent to remain.

The office where one goes to file a will in the county of residence is called the Register of Wills, except in Allegheny County where that office goes by the name Department of Court Records.

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