Pennsylvania's statute governing wills is called the Probate Code. Like all states, Pennsylvania has its own laws that cover what makes a will valid and how the instructions in a will should be carried out after the person who has made it dies. Although you do not need an attorney to make a valid will in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Bar Association recommends consulting a lawyer to be sure your will is valid under Pennsylvania law.
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Who May Make a Will
In Pennsylvania, anyone who is at least 18 years old and "of sound mind" may make a will, according to the Pennsylvania Probate Code. This person, known as the testator, must also sign his will. If he is physically incapable of signing the will, he may make his mark on it in the presence of two witnesses who understand the testator is making his mark on his will. If the testator cannot even make his mark, he may direct someone to sign his will for him. This person must sign the will in both the conscious presence of the testator and the presence of two witnesses, who know that the person signing the will was specifically instructed by the testator to do so, according to the Pennsylvania Probate Code.
Pennsylvania law requires two witnesses to sign the will if the testator has not signed it himself. Otherwise, the witnesses do not have to sign the will, but they do have to appear at the Register of Wills in the county where the will is filed in order to testify that they saw the testator sign the will. However, if the witnesses sign the will and the testator has it notarized, the witnesses do not have to testify, which can speed up probate, according to the Bucks County Courts.
A Pennsylvania will must be in writing on paper, also known as a hard copy, according to "The Complete Guide to Planning Your Estate in Pennsylvania." Pennsylvania law does not recognize nuncupative, or oral, wills. Likewise, Pennsylvania does not recognize electronic wills or video wills as valid wills. You may choose to use an electronic or video format to supplement your will, but it cannot serve as your will in the probate court, which must have a written hard copy.
Pennsylvania law allows you to revoke your will before your death in two different ways. You can either revoke your entire will by making a later will that states it revokes all prior wills, or you may revoke all or part of your will by burning, tearing or otherwise destroying it, according to the Pennsylvania Probate Code. Whenever you make a will or make a new will, include a phrase that says that this will revokes any and all former wills made by you, and include the day, month and year you are making the new or revised will.
References & Resources
- Pennsylvania Probate Code: Index
- "The Complete Guide to Planning Your Estate in Pennsylvania"; Linda C. Ashar; 2010
- Bucks County, Pennsylvania: Register of Wills
- Pennsylvania Bar Association: Estate Planning
- MedLaw Plus: Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament
- ABA Family Legal Guide: Revoking a Will
- ABA Family Legal Guide: Wills 101
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