Most Pennsylvanians know that a will is a document that leaves instructions to be followed after its writer (known as the “testator”) dies. The will typically explains who should receive what portions of the testator’s estate, although it can also include other instructions, such as which assets should be donated to charity and who should watch over the testator’s minor children.
If you’re making an estate plan in Pennsylvania, here are three things you should know about Pennsylvania wills:
- You need a will.
Without a will, your estate – and decisions about your children’s future – will be made according to Pennsylvania law. These decisions could take weeks or months to complete. They could result in your spouse sharing assets with other family members or your children being placed in foster care, while the court decides who their guardian should be. When you make a will, you make sure these matters are handled according to your wishes and speed up the process. Even if you have a trust, a will can help ensure no assets are left out of your trust or other estate plans.
- You can change your mind about the contents of your will at any time.
Your will does not take effect until you die, so you can edit or alter it at any time. You should update your will at several points throughout your life. Your attorney can help you create a will and make any changes you think are necessary.
- Working with a lawyer is the best way to ensure your will is upheld.
Many people attempt to write their own wills or estate plans using preprinted forms. But, these forms might not meet Pennsylvania legal requirements, and they may leave your family open to unnecessary tax or legal consequences. Your attorney can ensure these consequences are minimized and that your will meets the requirements of state law.