In Pennsylvania, a person may die with or without having a will prepared. If a person has a will, it is important to make sure that the will was properly executed. If it is not, the courts may not honor the will if it is contested. To create a valid will in Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 years old. The person making the will, commonly called the testator, must also be of sound mind at the time the will is created. Of course, the will must also be signed by the testator. In some situations where the testator is physically unable to sign, there may be an exception to this rule. Finally, the will must be witnessed, and this is usually done by two adults who are not named as beneficiaries under the will.
If a person dies in Pennsylvania without a will, that person is said to have died intestate. There are laws in Pennsylvania known as intestacy laws that provide a default estate plan for anyone who dies without a will. The estate will pass down depending on the surviving family members a person who dies intestate leaves behind. If a person dies intestate and is married, but leaves behind no children or surviving parents, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate. However, if there are surviving children of the deceased and his or her spouse, then the children would be entitled to a share of the estate. If there are surviving parents of the deceased but no children, then the parents would be entitled to a portion of the estate. These intestacy laws can be very confusing and can go on to include aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. The goal is to allow an estate to pass to the family of the deceased. Ultimately, if there are no family members who can make a claim to the estate, then the estate may pass to the state.
Pennsylvania does accept wills that are self-created. This means that a person may have written their own will, or even filled out a will-kit that they purchased from a third-party. Although these types of wills are generally accepted by the state, they also carry the most risk of being found invalid. Any little issue with the formalities needed to make a valid will could cause the will to be thrown out. As most people are not well versed in the intricacies of estate law, there is a lot of room for error with these types of wills.
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