Wills & Estates in Pennsylvania

By Beverly Bird

Pennsylvania courts are less involved with the probate process of a deceased’s will than some other states, but there are still procedures and laws to follow. While it is always possible to write a will or guide an estate through the probate process without an attorney, it can be helpful to at least consult with a lawyer to make sure your understanding of the law is correct.

Will Requirements

Any adult over the age of 18 who is of sound mind may write a will in Pennsylvania. The document must be in writing. If you are unable to sign your name to your will, someone else can do it for you, but you will need two witnesses if this is the case. You must state in their presence that what they are signing is your will.

Probate Process

Whether or not you leave a will, your property must still pass through the probate process in Pennsylvania if you own anything in your sole name that does not pass directly to a beneficiary through some other means. For example, real estate might pass directly to a co-owner such as a spouse if you hold the deed as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Debts, taxes, your funeral costs and expenses of your estate must be paid first before your property is distributed to heirs or beneficiaries. Likely expenses include court fees, professional fees if you consult with an attorney, and costs for any required newspaper notices. The person you have chosen as executor of your will, or an administrator appointed by the court if you left no will, will also notify your heirs and beneficiaries that your estate is in probate, perform an accounting of your assets and make sure everyone gets what they are supposed to get.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Marriage and Divorce Provisions

When you marry in Pennsylvania, whether or not you have a will and mention her in it, your spouse becomes entitled to one-third of your estate after expenses and debts are paid. This is not automatic, however. She must file a claim against the estate to receive it. An exceptions is if she is in your will and you left her more than a one-third share. If you divorce, anything you left her in your will is automatically nullified unless you state in your will that you intended her to receive a bequest even if the marriage ends.

Intestacy Laws

If you die without leaving a will, all states have specific legislation, called intestacy laws, stating who your property will go to. Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws state that your spouse gets your entire estate if you have no children and your parents are not living. If your parents are living, or if you have children, he gets $30,000 off the top of your estate and half of the balance of anything that remains. However, if your spouse is not also the parent of any of your children, he gets only one-third of your estate without the $30,000 provision. If you don’t have a spouse, your estate goes first to your children, then to your parents if you have no children, then to your siblings, nieces and nephews, then to your grandparents, and finally to your aunts and uncles and their descendants if no one else is living. Only if you leave none of these relatives will the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania take your estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Wills in Virginia
 

References

Related articles

Wills in Pennsylvania

Title 20, Sections 2501 through 3132, of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes lists the state’s laws regarding wills. In some respects, they are more lenient than statutes in other states, but if you write your own will, it may still be prudent to have an attorney review the finished product to ensure it accomplishes everything you want and that your county’s Register of Wills, who accepts and approves wills after death, will not declare it invalid because of some technical shortcoming.

Who Inherits if There's No Will in Connecticut?

Your wishes for property distribution after you die in Connecticut may not be honored if you don't leave a valid will behind. State intestacy laws dictate who gets your property and in what shares if you don't make a will or if your will doesn't meet legal standards. The laws place spouses, parents and children first, with other blood relatives inheriting if you don't have a spouse, child or parent that survives you.

Mississippi Estate Inheritance Laws

If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

Dying Without a Will in Maine

While it can be a simple matter to create a will, many people die without having one. Sometimes, the process of ...

Pennsylvania Inheritance Laws for Spouses

Every state but Georgia protects a spouse’s right to inherit when her partner dies. In Pennsylvania, the law does not ...

Who Are Heirs to a Last Will & Testament?

The term “heir” is often confused with “beneficiary” when, in fact, definitions of the two differ. Heirs are ...

Florida Laws Regarding Wills of Married Couples

Probate is a period of time during which your affairs are sorted after your death to make sure that your assets are ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED