Wills are important documents that can provide guidance for your estate after you die. If you have not already done so, it is important to create a will. A will can help you designate who gets what property and money after you die. Pennsylvania has specific laws about wills, so make sure you understand the process before you create your will.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that dictates how a person’s property is to be distributed after their death. Typically, a will appoints an executor who will be responsible for carrying out the deceased person’s wishes. A will can also be used to name a guardian for minor children. Wills are typically drafted by lawyers and must be signed in front of witnesses in order to be valid.
Sometimes, a will may be contested and rendered invalid if it is not executed properly. As such, it is imperative to get it done right to ensure that your last wishes are adhered to – to the letter.
Types of Wills
There are many types of wills, and each has its own specific requirements for it to be considered valid in Pennsylvania. The types of wills have been listed below:
- Living Will: A living will, also known as an Advance Directive, is a document that allows individuals to state their wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that they are no longer able to communicate their wishes. The document can specify whether or not the individual wants life-sustaining treatment, such as artificial feeding and hydration, to be continued if they are unable to make decisions for themselves.
- Testamentary Will: A testamentary will is a document that outlines the wishes of a person in regards to their property and possessions after they die. This document is typically written by the individual themselves, and is known as a “Last Will and Testament.” A testamentary will can be used to establish who will inherit the deceased’s property, as well as to name guardians for any minor children. In Pennsylvania, a testamentary will must be approved by a judge before it
- can be put into effect.
- Codicil: A Codicil, also known as a later will, is a legal document that amends or supplements an existing will. It must be signed and dated by the person making the will (the testator) and must be witnessed by two other people. A Codicil can add, delete, or change provisions in a will, and it can also be used to appoint a new executor or change the executor’s name. If a codicil contradicts the original will, the later date will govern and the earlier provisions will be invalidated.
- Mutual Will: A mutual will is a document that two or more people create to indicate their wishes about how their property should be distributed after their death. The document typically indicates who will inherit each person’s property and specifies any conditions that must be met before the property can be distributed. Mutual wills can be especially helpful in cases where the people involved have children from different marriages and want to make sure that their property is distributed in a way that complies with their respective wishes.
- Pour-Over Will: A pour-over will is a legal document that ensures an individual’s remaining assets will automatically transfer to a previously designated beneficiary, such as a trust. As most people don’t get around to transferring their assets to their trust before they die, a pour-over will take care of them. Pour-over wills are beneficial for individuals with complex financial portfolios or for those who simply want to ensure their loved ones receive their inheritance via a trust.
- Holographic Will: A holographic will is a will that is handwritten by the person making the will, rather than typed or printed. Holographic wills are not valid in all states, but they are valid in Pennsylvania. To be valid, a holographic will must be dated, signed, and be made in the presence of two witnesses. The will must also be made with the intent to dispose of property after the testator’s death.
- Oral Will: An oral will is a will that is not written down, but instead is spoken aloud. Oral wills are not typically considered to be valid wills in most states, including Pennsylvania, because they can be easily challenged and may not be properly executed.
Requirements for a Will in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a will must be in writing and must be signed by the person making the will, or by someone else in the presence of and at the direction of the maker. In the case of the latter, the will must also be signed by two witnesses who are not named in the will. If these requirements are not met, the will is considered invalid.
What Can be Included in a Pennsylvania Will?
A Pennsylvania will can include specific bequests of personal property, gifts of money or other assets, and provisions for the care of any animals owned by the testator. The will can also name an executor to manage the estate and appoints someone to take custody of any minor children. Finally, the will can establish a trust to provide for the children’s education or other needs.
After Your Death: What Happens to Your Will?
If a testator dies with a valid will, the will goes into effect when the testator dies. But it only goes in after probate as the probate process is mandatory in Pennsylvania. If the will does not name an executor, the court will appoint an executor. The executor administers the estate, pays debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. If the will does not dispose of all of the property in the estate, Pennsylvania law provides a statutory scheme for distribution.
What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will?
If you do not have a will in Pennsylvania, your estate will be distributed according to the Pennsylvania intestacy laws. These laws determine who will inherit your property if you die without a will. Generally, the laws will distribute your property to your closest relatives. This can result in some people receiving more money or property than they would if you had a will.
Need a Will? Contact an Attorney at NBMS Law
As you can see, having a will is important in Pennsylvania. It can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. If you are interested in creating or updating a will, it is important to consult with an attorney at NBMS Law to make sure that your will is drafted correctly. We will be happy to offer you our legal expertise.