How to Write a Will in Pennsylvania for Free

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Write a Will in Pennsylvania for Free

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

In Pennsylvania, it is possible to write a will for free. This legal document is an important estate planning tool for people who want to take care of their family and loved ones after they pass away. It allows the testator—the person drafting the document—to designate how and to whom his assets are distributed. If a person dies intestate, or without a will, the state's default laws of intestacy succession automatically apply, typically leaving the decedent's assets to the closest family relative.

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There is no requirement to hire an attorney to draft your will, though it is often helpful to seek expert legal advice for estate planning because there are often harsh consequences if it's deemed invalid. Still, as long as the testator understands and follows the exact requirements for creating a valid will in Pennsylvania, they can certainly write their own for free.

1. Identify beneficiaries.

One of the main purposes of a last will is distributing your assets to certain people upon your death. The people inheriting those assets are called beneficiaries. The first step in creating a will in Pennsylvania is to identify any beneficiaries to whom you want to leave your property. You can have an unlimited amount of beneficiaries.

2. Perform an inventory of property.

In order to bequeath your property to designated beneficiaries, you need to know what you own. Assets you can include range from real estate and personal property to bank accounts, investments, money, etc. The only assets the testator cannot include are those that they own jointly. Any joint property automatically passes to the surviving co-owner.

3. Decide who gets what.

The next step is to write down what property you want to give to each beneficiary. Using the two lists you made in the previous steps, you can easily assign your assets to the intended beneficiary. If multiple beneficiaries will receive a single piece of property, make a note of the percentage each beneficiary will receive. You should also account for any property you may acquire in the future and preemptively allocate that to the beneficiaries.

4. Designate a personal representative.

The probate process requires a personal representative, also known as an executor, as part of the administration of the decedent's estate. In the will, the testator should appoint a trusted individual to this role to manage their estate when they die. The personal representative is responsible for administering the will, distributing the decedent's property according to the wishes set forth in the document, and paying any applicable taxes or debts the decedent still owed. In Pennsylvania, the appointed personal representative has the legal right to possess the estate property and is responsible for keeping it safe.

5. Draft the final will.

Once you have completed the preceding steps, drafting the will is fairly easy. You must ensure you follow the exact structure and rules required under Pennsylvania law. You should clearly note at the top that it is your last will and testament, followed by the list of which beneficiary gets what property. At the bottom, you must sign your name in front of two witnesses. Those two witnesses must also sign the document in front of you.

Pennsylvania does not require you to file your will with the state in order to be valid. However, in order to start the probate process, the personal representative needs to file the last will with the probate court.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.