From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother died a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania survived by three sons. She had no will. One of my brothers has signed the renunciation giving me the right to serve as the Administrator. My other brother is homeless and I don’t know where he is, so what can I do?
The Register of Wills may issue Letters of Administration to give authority to someone to act as the Administrator of an estate if the person died without a will. The statue spells out who has a right to serve, and if the person dies without a spouse then each child has the right to serve. Most often, the children will agree on one person to serve and the other children will complete renunciations in favor of that person.
In your case, one of those brothers is not available to sign the renunciation. Because your brother has just as much right to serve as Administrator as you do, the Register will require that you prove that he is truly unavailable. As you can imagine, the Register sometimes encounters people who simply lie about a sibling’s whereabouts in order to gain control over the estate. Therefore, the Register cannot simply take your word that your sibling is unavailable.
Contact the Register and see what proof will be required in your case. Follow through with those requirements, but expect that you will also be required to purchase a bond. You may also be forced to attend a hearing with the Register’s representative to present your reason for being made the Administrator. You may wish to have an experienced Philadelphia County Probate Attorney represent you at that hearing.