Bucks Writs - Fall 2019 - 20

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While attorney Neal G. Wiley deserves substantial praise for researching and authoring his
comprehensive review of the history and role
of the largely misunderstood Orphans' Court in
Pennsylvania (his article was recently published in the

encompassing multiple complex areas of dispute. So I
began to question the propriety of the name.
Why such an antiquated moniker? Is the designation
even accurate? Is the use of the word "orphans"
politically incorrect? Why can't we come up with a more
accurate, more fitting, less deceptive, and more all-encompassing name?1

Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, July, 2019), I feel
compelled to lodge a respectful dissent regarding his extolling the virtues of the ancient name, "Orphans' Court."
Mr. Wiley observes that the moniker "so well conceptualizes its continuing role." I beg to differ. Here is why:

Substantially similar to Orphans' Courts throughout
the Commonwealth, our Orphans' Court Division in
Bucks County handles guardianships of alleged incapacitated persons, guardianships of minors, will contests,
disputes as to estate and trust accountings, various other
litigation matters involving decedents' estates and trusts,
contested and uncontested terminations of parental
rights, enforcement actions involving the Older Adult
Protective Services Act, approvals of petitions pertaining
to wrongful death and survival actions, approvals of
minor's compromises, name changes, and, happily,
adoption hearings.

As the author notes, Orphans' Court jurisdiction, which
has expanded substantially since our nation's founding
almost two and one-half centuries ago, is particularly
geared toward assisting and caring for those who cannot
take care of themselves, or those who require judicial
intervention to compel appropriate care and support,
financially and/or with regard to health, living arrangements, and other personal care matters. This laudable
mission is why I have been proud to include "Orphans'
Court" judge as one of the many hats I have worn since I
joined the Bench nearly a decade ago.

The evidence is overwhelming, then, that the name
"Orphans' Court" is a misnomer -largely inaccurate,
even insensitive, and certainly inapplicable to almost all
of the disputes which are adjudicated. The inaccurate
moniker creates misconceptions about the broad scope
of the work of the Court, and I would suggest that it is
not an exaggeratin to state that the name "Orphans'
Court" creates disrespect for the quality and complexity
of issues which the Court must address. It is, indeed, true
that words matter.

Mr. Wiley's article has caused me to give stronger consideration to questions which I have raised, and frankly,
with which I have been burdened since 2010, when my
then-President Judge approached me and asked (that is,
ordered) me, as a newly elected Judge, to spend one-third
of my court time serving in the Orphans' Court division
of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. Not unlike
many practicing attorneys, I had had very little exposure
to Orphans' Court as a litigation attorney for 33 years
prior to joining the Bench. I quickly learned, much to my
surprise, that Orphans' Court jurisdiction is quite broad,

While I have ye to learn of a fully accurate or totally
satisfactory substitute name, I am persuaded that it would

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Bucks Writs - Fall 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Bucks Writs - Fall 2019

Bucks Writs - Fall 2019 - 1
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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/BucksWritsSpring2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2017
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com