Don't Take Shortcuts with Your Will

Let's face it. It's easy to use an online service to create your will rather than go to a will lawyer near you. But are you confident you're getting what you really need? Our estate attorneys will work with you to create a legal will based on PA laws.

On one hand, it's easy to determine where you want your assets to go in the event of your death. So, it's easy to fill in the blanks on the form housed on a website. But here's the real question? Do you know Pennsylvania's case law and legislation surrounding wills? For example, individual state laws and county ordinances play a significant role in a will's creation. So if you're not familiar with those laws and regulations, you might want to consider enlisting a will lawyer in Bucks or Montgomery County to ensure you don't miss something critical.

After all, creating a will culminates in a legally-binding document. Moreover, that will becomes part of your larger estate plan that, hopefully, you've worked with an estate attorney to create. Equally important, it requires legal knowledge such as:

  • Can your house pass to a loved one under PA real estate laws?
  • Does your will adequately handle your property transfer in conjunction with probate law?
  • How much tax will transfer owing to estate taxes?
  • Can your life insurance policy go to someone else?

Will lawyers help navigate these potential issues. An online form doesn't.

Talk to Will Lawyers That Understand PA Laws

We touched on some issues relating to PA laws above. But let's get specific. A valid will in Pennsylvania must meet these statutory requirements:

  • It must be in writing
  • Be executed by an individual 18 years of age or older (the “testator”)
  • The individual must be of sound mind
  • Be signed by the testator or another person in the testator's presence and at the direction of the testator.
  • The will must be dated.
  • You must sign the will in the presence of two or more credible witnesses.

Under the best practices policy, witnesses should subscribe to the will by stating that they saw the testator execute it willingly and without duress. In addition, the witnesses sign in the hearing and sight of the testator. Moreover, the testator must be 18 years of age, of sound mind, and not under any undue influence. Considering PA laws, it's essential to work with will lawyers knowledgeable about those laws.

What is Intestate Law?

Regardless of who and how you execute your will, it's critical that you at least have one. That will should address these concerns:

  • Property and assets
  • Beneficiaries
  • Executor
  • Guardianships
  • Signatures

But it's essential to note -- without a will, your property becomes subject to intestate law. According to Pennsylvania law, when a person dies without a valid will, their property passes by "intestate succession" to heirs. In other words, if you don't have a will, the Commonwealth creates one. By the way, all 50 states have laws to this effect. That's why you need to work with a will lawyer to execute a will and avoid intestate law.

Intestate succession statutes distribute the decedent's wealth in a manner intended to reflect how an average person might have created their estate plan and will. Unfortunately, this default system can differ dramatically from what you intended. That holds even if your intentions are known. Without a valid will, intestate statutes apply -- no exceptions. In addition, no exceptions apply regardless of need or exceptional circumstances.

For example, what if a family member has drug and alcohol issues that you wanted to address? What if a child has a pending divorce? In addition, what if a child or spouse has unique needs and you tried to help them? Or what if there's the threat of creditor or bankruptcy issues?

Uniform Probate Code

Moreover, intestate laws do not allow for selecting who receives your assets. The Uniform Probate Code (the Code) serves as the starting point for many states' laws. A will lawyer can advise in-depth regarding the Code's nuances.

Under that Code, close relatives take property instead of distant relatives. The classes of relatives receiving property under the Code include:

  • The decedent's surviving spouse
  • Descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.)
  • Parents
  • Descendants of decedent's parents (siblings, nieces, and nephews)
  • Grandparents
  • Descendants of grandparents (aunts and uncles and cousins)

Adopted descendants get treated the same as biological descendants. However, if none of those named above relatives include any persons qualified to take the estate, the property "escheats" or goes by default to the Commonwealth. Drafting a will with the help of a local will lawyer can avoid this outcome.

Wills Do More Than Bequeath Assets

Everyone thinks of a will as assigning assets after their death. But a well-drafted will does more. It nominates fiduciaries, including executors, trustees, custodians, guardians for minors, and incapacitated adults.  The powers of an executor to administer a derive from three sources:

  • Pennsylvania Code
  • The decedent’s will
  • By order of the Orphans’ Court

Pennsylvania statutory law grants executors limited power to administer an estate. But a will establishes additional provisions for its administration. Otherwise, the executor must seek permission through the Orphans’ Court.

Be Safe. Work with a Will Lawyer Near You.

Using an online service to create a will for less might be tempting. But it leaves you open to mistakes that could result in unwanted outcomes.

That's why you should talk with nearby will lawyers. Our law firm has offices in Doylestown and Norristown, PA. So our lawyers and attorneys will work with you to create a rock-solid will for PA state legal requirements that also address Montgomery County and Bucks County ordinances. Equally important, our estate attorneys can help you create a sound estate plan that captures critical needs like power of attorney, advanced healthcare directives, and even estate litigation.

Wills Attorneys

Gilbert P. High Jr.

Gilbert P. High Jr. | municipal and estates Attorney | High Swartz Attorneys at Law

Municipal Law Attorney Gilbert P. High handles land development, zoning litigation, tree law, estate planning, easements, and rights of way.

Donald Petrille, Jr.

Donald Petrille, Jr. | Business & Estates Attorney | High Swartz Attorneys at Law

As an attorney, Donald Petrille, Jr. primarily represents businesses as they wrestle with complex legal issues and individuals in estate planning matters.

Renata T. Pabisz

renata t pabisz estate planning attorney at High Swartz attorneys for law

Renata T. Pabisz is an immigration lawyer and estate planning attorney concentrating on probate, estate administration, and elder law in the Philadelphia metro area.

Estate Planning Blog

Estate Planning News