The Clerk of Orphans' Court is a division of the Civil Court of Common Pleas. The first case was filed to "take an account to the improvements and usages of the States of Orphans." (From the Estate of Gilbert Wheelers, Bucks County Orphans' Court Records, Book 1A c. 1683)
Our cases include all estate proceedings before the Court of Common Pleas, Guardianship and Adoption cases, as well as Marriage Licenses and other proceedings.
The primary function of the Clerk of Orphans' Court is as filing office and custodian of the Court records. The Clerk accepts the pleadings for cases submitted for consideration by the court as well as documents not requiring court action but compulsory to be filed in an estate matter. A fee bill is set to cover the cost of filing.
The filings that call for court action are reviewed by the Court Administration Office to ensure compliance with the state and local rules before being forwarded to the Judge's Chambers for consideration. While the permanent home of the files is with the Orphans' Court, files travel throughout the Courthouse during processing. Ultimately, the Orphans' Court maintains these files and ensures their safety and integrity.
The Orphans' Court staff cannot provide any legal advice.
To locate any forms referenced for filings on this page, please visit our Forms page.
- Example Filings
- Incapacitated Person
- File Access
- Minor's Guardian
Examples of Filings Requiring Court Action
- Petitions for Adoption
- Accountings for Audit by the Court
- Petitions for guardians, incapacitated persons and minors
- Minor's Compromises
- Petitions for Settlement of Small Estate
- Petitions for Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
Examples of Filings Not Requiring Court Action
- Powers of Attorney
- Family Settlement Agreements
- Claims against an Estate
- Disclaimers of inheritance
You may request a Subpoena to Attend and Testify or for Discovery for any case in the Orphans' Court. This requires:
- $20 fee per subpoena
- Submit a written request with:
- Case name and number
- Name and address of the person to be cited
For many families, filing the petitions in the Orphans' Court is the last step in their long process for adoption. Your adoption may have been facilitated through an intermediary agency. A birth parent's parental right must be terminated. Home studies and background checks need to be completed. Whatever steps you have gone through, our office will do our best to help you complete the process, but please keep in mind that we are bound by the law and by confidentiality. We will not be able to assist you with all issues.
You must provide the completed petitions and the fees due to the Orphans' Court. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has developed forms for Foreign Adoptions and for requesting access to a closed file which we have posted here. Please contact the office with further questions.
The types of adoptions include:
- Adult Adoptions
- Foreign Adoptions
- Foster Parent (through Bucks County Children and Youth)
- Private or Parent Initiated
- Second Parent
- Step-parent or Kinship
Background checks are required in most adoptions. If you need information please visit the PA Department of Human Service's website for further information.
Please take notice of "Bucks County Rule 15.5D: Persons at Adoption Hearing" for more information about who is required to attend your adoption hearing. A quote of the rule is as follows:
"The following persons shall appear at the adoption hearing:
- the proposed adoptee;
- the proposed adopting parent(s);
- the spouse of the proposed adopting parent when the spouse is the adoptee's natural parent who is consenting to the adoption; and
- the individual intermediary or a fully informed representative of the agency intermediary."
The Orphans' Court has jurisdiction over estates, which often involve giving control over another person's property. The Orphans' Court may receive filings in a decedent's estate, an incapacitated person's estate or a minor's estate. A decedent's estate may have distribution or inheritance issues to settle.
Many of those cases are brought before the judge for audit by filing an accounting with the court to ensure all financial duties were properly met. A guardianship case puts a third party in charge of a living person and/or their property. Any time a minor is due money, whether through inheritance or settlement, their estate can be processed through the Orphans' Court.
An Accounting is filed. An Audit date is assigned based on when the accounting was filed. On the day of Audit, the Attorney presents a Petition for Adjudication and Appearance. All filings are presented to the Judge who will review the matter and issue the Adjudication of the Estate or set a hearing if needed to resolve any issues.
View the 2021 Orphans' Court Audit Schedule (PDF).
A Petition for guardianship of an alleged incapacitated adult is filed in the Orphans' Court. A hearing date is assigned and citation issued. If the petition is granted a final decree is signed appointing a guardian by a Judge and is entered into court record. The guardian will be responsible for filing of an inventory and annual reports in Orphans' Court regarding their guardianship.
Please note that due to the sensitive nature of the information in the file, these records have been sealed and impounded by the court. Only an attorney of record, the guardian or the person themselves may access the file.
Anyone else must submit a request for access.
A petition for guardianship of a minor is filed in the Orphans' Court. A hearing date is assigned. If the petition is granted a final decree is signed and guardian is appointed by a judge. In cases where the minor is awarded money, the minor must have a guardian appointed by the court to ensure proper handling of the minor's estate.
The Bucks County Law Library has resources available if you have questions on these procedures.
There a few irregular legal issues that have found their home in the Orphans' Court. These include (but are not limited to) Petitions to Amend Birth Certificates, petitions regarding gestational carriers, or registering a Power of Attorney.
While unable to offer any legal advice, the Orphans' Court staff will do their best to answer any questions you may have.