The Commonwealth’s patchwork of local orphans’ court rules will be replaced next year by statewide rules, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced in an order issued December 1, 2015. The new rules are the culmination of a project begun in 2007 by then-Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy to promote a standard statewide orphans’ court practice and reduce variations caused by local rules; provide clear procedures to lawyers and judges throughout Pennsylvania, especially those in counties without orphans’ court divisions; and harmonize orphans’ court practice with general civil practice. The Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee Report contains an excellent summary of the new rules, which will become effective September 1, 2016.
Pursuant to new Orphans’ Court Rule 1.5, all existing local rules, except for local rules on guardianships, adoptions, and the Abortion Control Act, will be vacated effective September 1, 2016. Rule 1.5 also requires local courts to submit any proposed local rules or amendments to the Committee for vetting prior to the local rule’s promulgation and effective date. The Committee will review and analyze the local rule to determine if it is consistent with the Supreme Court’s Orphans’ Court Rules. By order dated December 1, 2015, the Supreme Court directed that all such submissions by local courts be sent to the Committee no later than June 1, 2015, to ensure consideration before the sunset date of September 1, 2016.