TITLE 12

Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations

Administration of Decedents' Estates

CHAPTER 25. REGISTER OF WILLS


In performing the functions of the office, the Register of Wills of each county shall act only as a Clerk of the Court of Chancery.

59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) The Register of Wills shall have power to take acknowledgements, administer oaths, issue notices, certify and authenticate copies of instruments, documents and records of the Court and perform the usual functions of the Register's office.

(b) If a matter is one with respect to which no notice is required by statute or rule of court to be given to any person then, except as otherwise provided in this title or by rule of court, the Register of Wills may hear and determine it and make all orders, adjudgments and decrees in connection therewith which the Court of Chancery could make, subject to being set aside or modified by the Court at any time within 30 days thereafter; and if not so set aside or modified such orders, adjudgments and decrees shall have the same effect as if made by the Court.

(c) All actions commenced in the Court of Chancery shall be filed with the Register in Chancery, who shall have custody of the records thereof, as provided by the Rules of the Court of Chancery, notwithstanding that such action may be brought upon a cause of action previously within the cognizance of the Register of Wills.

(d) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Register of Wills shall have such further powers and duties as may be specifically conferred upon the Register by statute or by rule of the Court of Chancery.

59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 64 Del. Laws, c. 252, § 8; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) If the attendance of a witness to a will cannot be procured because of the witness' sickness, age, infirmity, imminent departure from the State, being beyond the reach of process or any other reason deemed satisfactory to the Register of Wills, the Register may award a commission to take the deposition of such witness.

(b) The commission may be issued on interrogatories filed, or the Register may make any order deemed proper concerning the issuance or execution of the commission.

Code 1852, § 1818; Code 1915, § 3371; Code 1935, § 3836; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2503; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

The Registers of Wills in respective counties shall receive the following annual salaries:

(1) New Castle County, as fixed by the New Castle County government.

(2) In Kent County the Register of Wills of Kent County shall receive a salary in an amount to be set by ordinance of the Kent County Levy Court.

(3) In Sussex County the Register of Wills of Sussex Council shall receive a salary in an amount to be set by ordinance of the Sussex County Council.

23 Del. Laws, c. 60, § 7; 24 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 1; 24 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 24 Del. Laws, c. 94, § 1; Code 1915, § 1438; 40 Del. Laws, c. 139, § 1; Code 1935, § 1597; 44 Del. Laws, c. 98, § 1; 45 Del. Laws, c. 138, § 1; 46 Del. Laws, c. 298, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2505; 49 Del. Laws, c. 283; 49 Del. Laws, c. 292; 50 Del. Laws, c. 488, § 1; 52 Del. Laws, c. 52, § 1; 52 Del. Laws, c. 174, § 1; 53 Del. Laws, c. 222, § 8; 54 Del. Laws, c. 23, § 11; 54 Del. Laws, c. 215, § 8; 56 Del. Laws, c. 204, § 2; 57 Del. Laws, c. 692, § 10; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 59 Del. Laws, c. 514, § 4; 61 Del. Laws, c. 506, § 9; 65 Del. Laws, c. 163, § 9; 65 Del. Laws, c. 216, § 6; 67 Del. Laws, c. 255, § 7; 68 Del. Laws, c. 234, § 5.;

The official bond of every Register of Wills of this State shall embrace and include the faithful performance by the Register of all the duties imposed upon the Register by law.

25 Del. Laws, c. 225, § 7; Code 1915, § 152; 37 Del. Laws, c. 8, § 1; 40 Del. Laws, c. 10, § 1; Code 1935, § 141; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2504; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

In all cases where, in the administration of the affairs of the office of Register of Wills in the several counties of the State, it is necessary or proper to administer an oath of affirmation, such oath of affirmation may be administered by a deputy register; and, where the Register might have done so, such deputy register may probate wills and grant letters testamentary and of administration. The appointment of each deputy shall be recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds of the county for which the deputy shall be appointed.

24 Del. Laws, c. 77, § 1; Code 1915, § 3338; Code 1935, § 3803; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2506; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

(a) The Chancellor shall name a chief deputy register of wills for each county who shall perform such duties as shall from time to time be assigned by the Court of Chancery. The annual compensation of such chief deputy shall be as fixed by the New Castle County government, the Sussex County government or the Levy Court of Kent County. A Chief Deputy Register of Wills when appointed and qualified shall not be removed from office except for good and sufficient cause.

(b) The Register of Wills in each county may employ such number of deputies and clerks at such salaries as shall be fixed by the government body of such county. In Kent County, minimum qualifications may be established by the county government for each position, and said minimum qualifications and compensation and any subsequent adjustments thereto shall have the concurrence of the register of wills.

23 Del. Laws, c. 60, § 8; 24 Del. Laws, c. 83, § 1; 24 Del. Laws, c. 86, § 2; 26 Del. Laws, c. 61, § 1; 27 Del. Laws, c. 73, § 1; 27 Del. Laws, c. 83, § 1; Code 1915, § 1439; 29 Del. Laws, c. 91, § 1; 29 Del. Laws, c. 92, § 1; 31 Del. Laws, c. 13, § 1; 32 Del. Laws, c. 67, § 1; 35 Del. Laws, c. 79, § 1; 40 Del. Laws, c. 139, § 2; Code 1935, §§ 1191, 1598; 43 Del. Laws, c. 120, § 1; 44 Del. Laws, c. 99, § 1; 44 Del. Laws, c. 100, §§ 1, 2; 44 Del. Laws, c. 101, § 1; 45 Del. Laws, c. 109, §§ 1, 2; 45 Del. Laws, c. 140, § 1; 46 Del. Laws, c. 139, § 1; 46 Del. Laws, c. 298, §§ 1, 2; 47 Del. Laws, c. 192; 48 Del. Laws, c. 111, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2507; 53 Del. Laws, c. 245; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 60 Del. Laws, c. 218, § 1; 61 Del. Laws, c. 486, § 1; 74 Del. Laws, c. 45, § 6.;

Each Register of Wills shall furnish to the Board of Assessment of each county a description of each parcel of real estate devised or descending by virtue of will or by operation of law insofar as the records of the Register's office will enable. The Register shall also furnish the date of the transfer, the name of the deceased and the name and the address of the transferee. The Register shall furnish such information promptly after the filing in the Register's office of an inventory and appraisement.

19 Del. Laws, c. 26, § 27; 19 Del. Laws, c. 562, § 11; 20 Del. Laws, c. 389, § 1; Code 1915, §§ 1126A, 1178; 28 Del. Laws, c. 82, § 28; 29 Del. Laws, c. 72, § 20; 30 Del. Laws, c. 77, § 19; 30 Del. Laws, c. 78, § 7; 31 Del. Laws, c. 14, § 24; 33 Del. Laws, c. 79, § 1; 33 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 23; Code 1935, §§ 1272, 1309, 1328, 1420, 1453; 46 Del. Laws, c. 299, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2508; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) Each Register of Wills upon the advice and approval of the Court of Chancery may deliver to the Delaware Public Archives any volume of probate records in the Register's official custody, the age and condition of which render its continued use by the public inadvisable, and the Register shall take a receipt for the same and the receipt shall be recorded in the office from which such volume or record is taken.

(b) Within a reasonable time after any such volume or record has been delivered to the Delaware Public Archives, the State Archivist and Records Administrator shall make a photocopy of its contents and shall certify that such contents are complete and correct, and such certificate shall be included in such photocopy. Such photocopy shall be delivered to the Register of Wills from whom the original volume was received, and the Register may issue certified copies of any records photocopied under the provisions of this section, and any such certified copy shall be admissible as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding in the same manner and entitled to the same weight and have the same effect as certified copies made from the original volume.

37 Del. Laws, c. 110, § 1; Code 1935, § 1563; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2509; 54 Del. Laws, c. 206; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1; 72 Del. Laws, c. 91, §§ 6-8.;

The governing body of each county shall determine the fees which shall be charged by the Register of Wills of that county.

Code 1852, § 2833; Code 1893, c. 125, § 14; 24 Del. Laws, c. 246, § 3; 24 Del. Laws, c. 247, §§ 1, 2; Code 1915, §§ 4859, 4859A, 4860, 4886; 30 Del. Laws, c. 241, § 2; 36 Del. Laws, c. 275, § 1; Code 1935, §§ 5353, 5354, 5355, 5374; 46 Del. Laws, c. 300, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, §§ 2321, 2322, 2323; 52 Del. Laws, c. 156; 53 Del. Laws, c. 229, §§ 1, 2; 57 Del. Laws, c. 704; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 60 Del. Laws, c. 199, § 3; 62 Del. Laws, c. 19, § 1; 63 Del. Laws, c. 131, §§ 1, 2; 64 Del. Laws, c. 76, § 1.;

Every Register of Wills shall keep for public inspection in the Register's office a printed or written list of the fees then in effect.

Code 1852, § 2834; Code 1915, § 4887; Code 1935, § 5375; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2524; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

Whoever neglects or refuses to pay the fees provided for in this chapter, for any service performed, within 30 days after written demand from the Register of Wills to whom such fees are due, shall be fined $20 besides costs of suit unless the Court of Chancery, upon application within such 30-day period for good cause shown, grants an extension of time for payment of such fees.

24 Del. Laws, c. 246, § 6; 24 Del. Laws, c. 247, § 4; Code 1915, § 4890; Code 1935, § 5378; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2526; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

(a) An original will may be deposited by any testator, testatrix, attorney-in-fact or attorney-at-law for safekeeping in the office of the Register of Wills for New Castle County upon payment of a fee of $5.

(b) Upon receipt of said will, the Register shall:

(1) Give to such testator, testatrix, attorney-in-fact or attorney-at-law a receipt for such deposit;

(2) Place the will in an envelope and seal it securely in the presence of the testator, testatrix, attorney-in-fact or attorney-at-law;

(3) Number the envelope and indicate thereon the name of the testator or testatrix;

(4) Record the date on which it is lodged;

(5) List the name of the person or persons whom the testator or testatrix wishes to serve as personal representative upon testator's or testatrix's death; and

(6) Index the same alphabetically in a permanent index kept for that purpose.

(c) The Register shall carefully preserve the envelope containing the will unopened unless it is returned to the testator, testatrix, attorney-in-fact or attorney-at-law during the lifetime of the testator or testatrix. The testator or testatrix may examine the contents of the envelope in the Register of Wills' office and return the same for a fee of $1. Should such will be returned to the testator or testatrix during testator's or testatrix's lifetime, removed from the office and then redeposited with the Register, it shall be considered as a new lodging under the provisions of this section.

(d) Upon receipt of notice of the death of the testator or testatrix or by order of the court, the Register shall open the will and place the will in its pending file to await probate. While awaiting probate the will may be reviewed by any person entitled to offer it for probate, authorized by court order or named in the will as a beneficiary, trustee or guardian. Copies of the will shall be given to the executor, executrix, beneficiary, trustee, guardian, at their request or upon court order. The person or party making the request shall be responsible for reasonable copying charges. Except as provided herein, no other person is permitted to receive a copy of a will.

(e) The Register, upon receipt of notice of death and an affidavit of the proposed personal representative which alleges that the decedent was not a resident of New Castle County at the time of the decedent's death, shall deliver the will to the probate officer or Register of Wills for the county or state where the decedent is alleged to have resided at the decedent's death.

(f) Any attorney-at-law, bank or trust company, upon holding a will lodged with the attorney-at-law, bank or trust company for safekeeping by a client for 7 years or more and having no knowledge of whether the said client is alive or dead after such time, may lodge such will with the Register as provided in subsections (a)-(e) of this section for which the Register shall be paid a fee of $5 for such lodging, indexing and preserving.

(g) The filing of a will with the Register shall not create any presumption as to the authenticity of the document, the signatures on the will or its admissibility to probate.

(h) The fee to be paid the Register may be increased or reduced by the New Castle County Council at its election.

(i) The Register of Wills shall not be liable for the loss of any document.

64 Del. Laws, c. 401, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;