The Government Fee That Can Cost Poor Philadelphians Their Inheritance

Many places in America, being willed a property isn’t enough. Philadelphia assesses something called a probate fee — $580 — the Henrys would learn they needed to pay City Hall just to process their inheritance.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Ryan Briggs
September 25, 2018

Tags: Fines and Fees, Wills and Estate

Organizations mentioned/involved: Philadelphia Volunteers for Indigent Program, Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


On top of funerary expenses, that $580 fee represents skipped groceries to feed her mother and two daughters, or utility bills left unpaid and shut-off warnings. Before her death, family members discovered that Mary Henry had taken out a reverse mortgage in her waning days to cover her expenses. They were on the hook for those payments, too.

Even though they were eventually able to scrape the cash together for the fee, Henry weeps as she recounts these hard times.

“It was that some things just had to not get paid,” Henry recalls, through tears. “I don’t mind doing it, I’ll pay my way. But it just feels like I’m always broke.”