Something to Consider when Administering an Estate in Central Pennsylvania


Do you really want the lawyer who drafted the will to be your lawyer as executor or executrix?

What if that lawyer made some mistakes? Consider retaining someone else to assist you.

Let’s define some Pennsylvania legal terms

A civil or criminal judicial proceeding.

A voluntary declaration of facts written down and sworn to by the declarant before an officer authorized to administer oaths.

A proceeding undertaken to have a decision reconsidered by bringing it to a higher authority.

Appellate Court
A court with jurisdiction to review decisions of lower courts or administrative agencies.

A method of dispute resolution involving one or more neutral third parties who are agreed to by the disputing parties and whose decision is binding.

One who is designated to transact business for another; a legal agent.

Bench Trial or Non-jury Trial
A trial before a judge without a jury.

A person who is designated to benefit from an appointment, disposition, or assignment (as in a will, insurance policy, etc.).

A violation or infraction of a law or obligation.

A written statement setting out the legal contentions of a party in litigation.

Burden of Proof
A party’s duty to prove a disputed assertion or charge.

Business Purchase Agreements
A sales/purchase contract.

Civil Law
The body of law imposed by the state.

A demand for money or property to which one asserts a right (an insurance claim).

Commercial Law
The substantive law dealing with the sale and distribution of goods, the financing or credit transactions on the security of the goods sold, and negotiable instruments.

Commercial Litigation
The process of carrying on a lawsuit concerning business assets and claims.

Commercial Real Estate
Any real property owned to produce income.

Payment of damages, or any other act that a court orders to be done by a person who has caused injury to another and must therefore make the other whole.

Construction Liens
A statutory lien that secures payment for labor or materials supplied in improving, repairing, or maintaining real or personal property.

Contingency Fee
A fee charged for a lawyer’s services only if the lawsuit is successful or is favorably settled out of court.

An agreement between two or more parties creating obligations that are enforceable or otherwise recognizable at law.

The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical or artistic work).

An entity (usually a business) having authority under law to act as a single person distinct from the shareholders who own it and having rights to issue stock and exist indefinitely.

One or more lawyers who represent a client.

Cross Examination 
The questioning of a witness under oath by an adverse party.

Money claimed by, or ordered to be paid to, a person as compensation for loss or injury.

A person sued in a civil proceeding or accused in a criminal proceeding.

A witness’s out of court sworn testimony that is reduced to writing (usually by a court reporter) for later use in court or for discovery purposes.

The condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness.

The stage in a court case whereby each party may discover tangible items, documents, facts, knowledge and opinions in possession of the other.

A formal record in a court clerk briefly notes the proceedings and filings in a court case.

Emotional Distress
A highly unpleasant mental reaction (such as anguish, grief, fright, humiliation or fury) that results from another person’s conduct.

Money held by a third-party on behalf of transacting parties.

Something (including testimony, documents and tangible objects) that tends to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.

Expert Witness
A witness qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to provide a scientific, technical, or other specialized opinion about the evidence or a fact issue.

Federal Courts
A court having federal jurisdiction, including the US Supreme Court, courts of appeals, district courts, bankruptcy courts and tax courts.

Filing (File)
To deliver a legal document to the court clerk or record custodian for placement into the official record.

A knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.

One who has the legal authority and duty to care for another’s person or property, especially because of the other’s infancy, incapacity or disability.

A judicial session, usually open to the public, held for the purpose of deciding issues of face or of law, sometimes with witnesses testifying.

Traditionally, testimony that is given by a witness who relates not what he or she knows personally, but what others have said, and that is therefore dependent on the credibility of someone other than the witness.

To reimburse another for a loss suffered because of a third party’s act or default.

A court order commanding or preventing an action.

An agreement by which one party assumes a risk faced by another party in return for a premium payment.

A court’s final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case.

A person serving on a jury panel.

A group of persons selected according to law and given the power to decide questions of fact and return a verdict in the case submitted to them.

Any proceeding by a party or parties against another in a court of law.

Leading Question
A question that suggests the answer to the person being interrogated; especially a question that may be answered by a mere “yes” or “no”.

Legal Cause
A cause that is legally sufficient to result in liability.

Liability (Liable)
The quality or state of being legally obligated or accountable; legal responsibility to another or to society, enforceable by civil remedy or criminal punishment.

A legal right or interest that a creditor has in another’s property, lasting usually until a debt or duty that it secures is satisfied.

Limited Liability Company
A company – statutorily authorized in certain states – that is characterized by limited liability, management by members or managers, and limitations on ownership transfer. – Abbr. L.L.C.

The process of carrying on a lawsuit.

Lost Earnings
Wages, salary, or other income that a person could have earned if he or she had not lost a job, suffered a disabling injury, or died.

A method of dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution.

A person who has not reached full legal age; a child or juvenile. In Pennsylvania, 18.

To make less severe or intense.

The failure to exercise that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation, often called the failure to use reasonable care.

A solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered person or thing, that one’s statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise.

A formal statement opposing something that has occurred, or is about to occur in court and seeking the judge’s immediate ruling on the point.

Opening Statement
At the outset of a trial, an advocate’s statement giving the fact-finder a preview of the case and of the evidence to be presented, but not containing argument.

A command, direction or instruction.

Out-of-Court Settlement
The settlement and termination of a pending suit arrived at prior to a jury verdict or bench ruling.

Pain and Suffering
Physical discomfort or emotional distress compensable as an element of damages in torts.

A trained professional who assists a lawyer in duties related to the practice of law but who is not a licensed attorney.

A voluntary association of two or more persons who jointly own and carry on a business for profit.

One who takes part in a transaction.

The act or an instance of a person’s deliberately making material false or misleading statements while under oath.

Personal Injury
In a negligence action, any harm caused to a person, such as a broken bone, a cut, or a bruise; bodily injury.

Personal Property
Any movable or intangible thing that is subject to ownership and not classified as real property.

Petition or Motion
A formal written request presented to a court or other official body.

The party who brings a civil suit in a court of law.

A formal document in which a party to a legal proceeding (especially a civil lawsuit) sets forth or responds to allegations, claims, denials or defenses.

Power of Attorney
An instrument granting someone authority to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for the grantor.

The judicial procedure by which a testamentary document is established to be a valid will.

Property Damages
Injury to real or personal property through another’s negligence, willful destruction or by some act of nature.

Legal or Proximate Cause
A cause that is legally sufficient to result in liability.

Punitive Damages
Damages awarded in addition to actual damages when the defendant acted with recklessness, malice or deceit.

Purchase Agreements
A sales contract.

Real Estate
Land and anything growing on, attached to, or erected on it, excluding anything that may be severed without injury to the land.

Reasonable Care
As a test of liability for negligence, the degree of care that a prudent and competent person engaged in the same line of business or endeavor would exercise under similar circumstances.

The regaining or restoration of something lost or taken away.

Liberation from an obligation, duty or demand.

An agreement ending a dispute or lawsuit.

Standard of proof
The degree or level of proof demanded in a specific case, such as ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.

Statute of Limitations
A law passed by a legislative body governing the time beyond which a lawsuit may no longer be commenced.

A summons commanding a person to appear before a court or other tribunal subject to a penalty for failing to comply.

Suit or Lawsuit
Any proceeding by a party or parties against another in a court of law.

Evidence that a competent witness under oath or affirmation gives at trial or in an affidavit or deposition.

One who is not a party to a lawsuit, agreement or other transaction but who is somehow involved in the transaction; someone other than the principal parties.

Legal evidence of a person’s ownership rights in property; an instrument (such as a deed) that constitutes such evidence.

A civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages.

A formal judicial examination of evidence and determination of legal claims in an adversary proceeding.

Trust Agreement or Declaration
The act by which the person who holds legal title to property or an estate acknowledges that the property is being held in trust for another person or for certain specified purposes.

One who, having legal title to property, holds it in trust for the benefit of another and owes a fiduciary duty to that beneficiary.

The jury’s finding or decision on the factual issues of a civil case.

The voluntary relinquishment or abandonment – express or implied – of a legal right or advantage.

A document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death.

One who gives testimony, under oath or affirmation in person, by oral or written deposition, or by affidavit.

Workers’ Compensation
A system of providing benefits to an employee for injuries occurring in the scope of employment.

Wrongful Death Action
A lawsuit brought on behalf of a decedent’s survivors for their damages resulting from a tortuous injury that caused the decedent’s death.


What Makes a Good Lawyer – A Long Time, Pennsylvania Attorney’s Perspective

With 37 years of practice I have had a lot of time to watch other attorneys and reflect on what makes a good attorney. Here is my list.
  • Has integrity, personal and professional
  • Is a person of good character
  • Listens first and always
  • Has a general philosophy of restraint in all matters
  • Adamantly avoids potential conflicts of interest
  • Is independent, fair, and competent
  • Negotiates resolutions as an avenue of first resort
  • Litigates as a last resort, then advocates vigorously
  • Knows the law, has extensive legal knowledge and good writing ability
  • Knows his adversary
  • Knows the court and the judge
  • Removes ego from all relationships and proceedings
  • Is committed to the rule of law
  • Enjoys a keen intellect
  • Is even tempered
  • Graduated from a good law school
  • Has extensive time in the courtroom arguing cases for clients
  • Is admired by many in the legal community
  • Experienced in judging character
  • Impartial
  • Patience
  • Wise
  • Courageous
  • Firm
  • Alert
  • Incorruptible
  • Gifted with insight – able to considers the feelings of clients and adversaries with sympathy and understanding
  • Forensic skill to protect the rights of the individual against arbitrariness
  • Prepared to accept the consequences of decisions
  • Knowledge of human affairs and insight into human nature
  • Little difficulty in grasping the main issues of the dispute quickly
  • Sense of justice
  • Has not engaged in conduct involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or other unethical conduct in his or her personal and professional life


Thank you for visiting our website. We’ve created this site to serve as an informational resource to those who are seeking legal representation in Pennsylvania. Chip Milspaw, principal of the Law Office of Luther E. Milspaw, assists both businesses and individuals throughout the south central Pennsylvania area.  Matters in which Chip represents his clients include:

  • Business organizations, profit and non-profit
  • Business transactions
  • Commercial disputes and complex litigation
  • Real estate acquisition, title work and zoning
  • Family law including prenuptial, post nuptial, divorce, child custody, child support and alimony
  • Plaintiffs’ professional negligence litigation
  • Civil rights litigation
  • Wills and trusts
  • Estate administration and related Orphans’ Court issues
  • Employment issues, including employment agreements and restrictive covenants
  • Landowners representation in Marcellus Shale Oil and Gas leasing and related issues and disputes

If you are located in south central Pennsylvania and require legal assistance in any of the above types of matters, please contact us at (717) 236-3141 or via email.