Orphan’s Court Litigation

The attorneys at Wetzel Gagliardi Fetter & Lavin LLC assist clients in a variety of Orphans’ Court matters, such as will contests, guardianships, and estate administration matters that require court intervention. Litigation in Orphans’ Court is varied, but often involves the determination of a person or entities’ interest in the assets of another, or the management of one’s own assets if there is a question regarding a person’s legal capacity. Issues involving the obligations of executors, trustees, and other court-appointed fiduciaries and their obligations to the beneficiaries of estates and trusts are adjudicated in Orphans’ Court. We have substantial experience representing both executors and administrators as well as beneficiaries.

The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia describes the Orphans’ Court Division as one of the three divisions of the Court of Common Pleas which serves to protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities who are otherwise incapable of managing their own affairs. The name “Orphans” in the name of the Court is derived from the general definition of the term as one lacking protection, not the common association of a child deprived by the death of his or her parents. It is the Court’s mission to ensure that the best interests of those persons and entities, who are “orphans” in the general sense of the word, are not compromised.

The Court’s jurisdiction extends to minors, incapacitated persons, decedents, trusts, principals and agents under powers of attorney, non-profit charitable organizations, cemetery companies, birth records, and marriage licenses. The Court appoints guardians for minors and incapacitated persons to handle their financial affairs and/or their health and safety needs. The actions and accounts of fiduciaries, including guardians, agents under powers of attorney, executors, administrators, and trustees are examined and audited. The Court hears disputes involving inheritance and estate tax issues. Questions regarding the administration and distribution of a decedent’s or an incapacitated person’s estates, testamentary and inter-vivos trusts, special needs trusts, and non-profit corporations organized for charitable purposes—as well as Appeals from the Register of Wills—are adjudicated and resolved. Authorizations to act as an approved corporate fiduciary are issued by the Court.

Orphans’ Court Mediation

As of September 1, 2016, Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Rule 1.6 establishes an Orphans’ Court Mediation Program: “All parties having an interest in a matter may participate by written agreement, or the court by local rule or order in a particular matter may provide for the parties to participate, in private mediation or in court-supervised mediation.” Some counties in Pennsylvania have already adopted new Local Rules governing their respective Orphans’ Court Mediation Program. Mediation can be an effective means of dispute resolution and typically is less costly than litigation. Even if a case isn’t settled, mediation frequently helps the parties narrow the issues that need to be tried in court.


Wetzel Gagliardi Fetter & Lavin LLC provides experienced representation to individuals and families who are seeking guardianships for incapacitated parents, siblings, or others in your care and for special needs children. Seamus M. Lavin, Esquire has years of experience with guardianships and other estate planning and family law issues. We can assist you in emergency situations or if you’re planning ahead. Parents or older siblings of special needs children will need to obtain a guardianship for these individuals when they become adults at 18. To continue to care for your child after age 18, you’ll need a guardianship to make legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.

Adults who are vulnerable or incapacitated due to illness or injury may be unable to make decisions for themselves. If they don’t have financial and healthcare powers of attorney in place, they’ll need a guardian to act on their behalf.

Many people have questions and concerns about guardianships. As our client, you’ll receive answers along with knowledgeable and compassionate representation with responsive service.