How to Create a Legal Will in Pennsylvania

By Beverly Bird

When you do not leave a will, your family inherits your assets in an order determined by your state’s statutes. Typically, this is your spouse, then your children, followed by your parents, siblings and finally grandparents. For instance, if you do not have a spouse or children and your parents are deceased, your sister would inherit everything you own, even if you have not spoken to her since you were children. In Pennsylvania, if you are 18 or older and mentally competent, you can legally write a will to prevent this.

Step 1

Download a format for a simple will from the Internet. Make sure it is a format that is specific to Pennsylvania. In the alternative, you can buy one from an office supply store or legal supply store, or visit the library to learn the format and type it yourself. You can write your will by hand as long as it is properly signed and meets all of the state’s other will requirements. Oral wills are not legal in Pennsylvania,

Step 2

Insert your personal information in the pertinent parts of the will. This includes your name and the names of your spouse and your children. Identify who you want to be your executor--the person who will oversee the transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries under a court's supervision. Be specific regarding what you want your executor to be permitted to do on your estate’s behalf. You can also name a second executor in case the first one does not want the job.

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Step 3

Bequeath your assets to the beneficiaries you want to receive them. For example, you can leave certain items of property to certain heirs with the remainder of your estate going to another beneficiary. Or you can leave everything you own to one person, or you can divide your estate into equal portions and give each of your heirs a share. In Pennsylvania, you can insert a penalty clause saying that if any of your beneficiaries contest the will or legally object to what you bequeathed them, they will lose their inheritance, but it might not be upheld if they have good cause.

Step 4

Sign your will in front of two witnesses. Ideally, they will also sign the will. If for some reason they do not, Pennsylvania might still accept the will, provided they appear at the Register of Wills’ office when probate is opened and attest that your signature on the will is genuine and that they were there at the time that you made it.

Step 5

Self-prove your will. This is not required, but it can spare your witnesses from having to testify after your death as to the authenticity of your will if there is any doubt about it. To do this, you and your witnesses must attest in a separate written, sworn statement that the will is authentic and sign it in the presence of a notary public. Pennsylvania will now automatically accept your will as authentic.

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Wills in Pennsylvania

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Is a Self Made Will Legal if Notarized?

A self-made will is legal if it meets your state's requirements for wills. All states have requirements that include having at least two witnesses and signing your will yourself. Some states allow you to notarize your will to make it "self-proving," which moves it through probate faster. However, as of December 2010, only Louisiana requires a will to be notarized.

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