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  • Writer's pictureMcNickle & Bonner

What Is a Short Certificate & How Do I Get One in PA?

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

If a loved one has died and you are handling their affairs, you may have come across the term "short certificate."

You may even have many questions running through your mind: "What is a short certificate and how much does it cost in PA? What is a short certificate used for? What is needed to get a short certificate in PA?"

You may be also wondering: "How long does it take to get a short certificate? Do I need to get one? "Is a short certificate the same as letters of testamentary?"

Not to worry, you'll get all the answers you need in this post.

Pennsylvania Short Certificate

What is a Short Certificate?

A short certificate is an informal term for a document issued to you proving that you have been appointed executor or administrator. Without the short certificate, you won't be given access to the deceased's assets.

The short certificate will contain the deceased's name and date of death. It will also show your name as the person appointed as the estate's executor or administrator. The term "short" indicates the size of the document.

PA Short Certificate Cost

The cost of a Pennsylvania short certificate varies from one county to the other. In Butler County, obtaining a short certificate costs $5, while counties such as Lehigh and Delaware pegged theirs at $10 (as of 2023). To know the specific cost and acceptable payment methods, contact your county's Register of Wills office.

What is Needed to Get a Short Certificate in PA?

To get a Pennsylvania short certificate, you need the following:

  • "Open" the estate by filing a petition for grant of letters with the Register of Wills of the PA county where the deceased lived at the time of their death.

  • Original death certificate

  • An identification card

  • Submit a copy of the will if available

  • Swear an oath to comply with court rules in the administration of the estate.

What is a Short Certificate Used For?

A short certificate enables you, as an executor or administrator, to carry out your duties smoothly. You can use a short certificate to prove you have the authority to list and transfer the title to the decedent's home. With a short certificate, financial institutions, such as banks, will also grant your request to transfer the deceased money.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Short Certificate?

To know how long it takes to get a Pennsylvania short certificate, we advise you to contact the Register of Wills office. That's because processing time differs from county to county. The workload of the local office also determines how long it will take to receive it.

Do I Need a Short Certificate?

If you are a potential executor or administrator and are willing to see the estate through to a conclusion, you will need a short certificate. With it, you will find it easy to access and distribute the decedent's assets and fulfill other obligations.

Is a Short Certificate the Same as Letters of Testamentary?

No, a short certificate is not the same as letters of testamentary. As explained above, a short certificate is a condensed document that serves as proof of your appointment as an executor or administrator.

On the other hand, letters of testamentary are documents that authorize you to act as the executor of the estate. It is given if the decedent died with a will.

Want to Get a Short Certificate in PA? Do Yourself a Favor Before Proceeding

If you are a potential executor or administrator and have been told to get a short certificate, you may not have a full picture of what it entails. Getting a short certificate really means you'll have to engage in the probate process.

You'll prepare a petition and present yourself before the local Register of Wills Office. You will file some estate documents, pay up debts, file tax returns, and fulfill other obligations according to the law. The truth is, getting a short certificate is not as easy as simply picking up a document. So before proceeding, you want to think things through.

Why not do yourself a huge favor by contacting us to advise and guide you before beginning the process? Call us at 724-458-9550 for a free phone consultation today.


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