Creating a Pennsylvania Will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Pennsylvania wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Pennsylvania wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Pennsylvania last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions).
Signature: A Pennsylvania last will and testament must be signed. Otherwise, the signature requirement must fall within the following exceptions:
Words following signature - Any writing following after the signature, whether written before or after the will is constructed and signed, shall not invalidate the portions of the will which precede the signature.
Signature by mark - If the testator is unable to sign his name for any reason, the testator may instead use a mark which has the name of the testator written before or after the mark if he makes his mark in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to the will in his presence.
Signature by another - If the testator is unable to sign his name or to make his mark for any reason, a will to which his name is signed (in his presence and by his express direction) shall be as valid as though he had signed his name if he declares the document to be his will in the presence of two witnesses, who sign their names to it in his presence.
Witnesses: Although witnesses are not required by law in Pennsylvania, many county-level Registers of Wills require two witnesses to appear in person at the time of probate. These witnesses need not be the same people as those who signed the will, but a will is more likely to survive a challenge if this is the case. Note that if a self-proving affidavit accompanies the original will, the original witnesses do not have to appear in person.
Writing: A Pennsylvania last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Pennsylvania last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person, including but not limited to any of the following:
A charitable organization.
Distribution of Property:
Wills are legal documents that outline the intentions of decedents concerning their property and assets following death. In general, Pennsylvania laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our Pennsylvania wills form may be used to nominate a person who will act as guardian for your minor children.
Our Pennsylvania wills form may also be used to name a person in charge of administrating your will.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
When a married person residing in Pennsylvania dies, his surviving spouse has a right (which the spouse may choose to take or not) to a one-third share of including but not limited to the following property:
Property passing from the decedent by will or intestacy.
Income or use for the remaining life of the spouse of property transferred by the decedent during the marriage.
Property transferred by the decedent during his lifetime to the extent that the decedent at the time of his death had a power to revoke the property transfer.
Property transferred by the decedent during the marriage and within one year of his death to the extent that the amount transferred to each person exceeds $3,000, valued at the time of transfer.
Providing for Pets
Currently, Pennsylvania does not have a statute that would recognize pet trusts. However, you may designate a beneficiary of your pets to ensure their care after your death. Legalzoom's Pennsylvania wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Pennsylvania will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Pennsylvania will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Pennsylvania probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A Pennsylvania will and testament or part of a will and testament can be revoked by:
1) Will or codicil. By some other will or codicil in writing;
2) Other writing. - By some other writing declaring the same, constructed, signed, and proved in the manner required of wills; or
3) Act to the document. - By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will, by the testator himself or by another person in his presence and by his express direction. If such act is done by any person other than the testator, the direction of the testator must be proved by two witnesses.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Pennsylvania last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, and distribute property as designated in the Pennsylvania last will.
A Pennsylvania last will may be probated at any time. Probate procedures begin by filing a petition for letters testamentary or of administration at the county register of wills where the decedent was domiciled.
Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return Form REV-1500 should be filed in duplicate with the county register of wills. With the signing of a new bill, the Pennsylvania estate tax is once again equal to the federal estate tax credit. All returns, state and federal, should be filed within 9 months of the decedent's death. The taxes owed on your estate from probate of your Pennsylvania last will are determined using these guidelines.
It is extremely important to make a Pennsylvania will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Pennsylvania state laws.
For example, if there is a surviving spouse and no surviving immediate descendants of the decedent but there are surviving parents of the decedent, the first $30,000 plus one-half of the balance of the estate will go to the surviving spouse.
If you make a Pennsylvania will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.