In the most basic form, a Pennsylvania Will is a way to distribute all of your assets to the persons of your choosing in the event of your death. But, aside from leaving your home and personal belongings to your loved ones, there are many other aspects of Wills that are important to consider.
It’s tough to plan for the future, but trying to account for all types of contingencies makes for a well-drafted and long-standing Will. For example, what if you have more children after your original Will is drafted? Or what if you and your spouse become divorced years after your Will was made providing all of your assets to that spouse?
For starters, although people commonly think that a Will is a place to include designations as to who will receive which articles of your property, a Will is also a place where you can specifically disinherit someone as well. Without having to express your reasons why, you may specifically disinherit someone in your Will, meaning that you specifically name individual(s) that even if they were entitled to a share of your estate because of their familial relationship to you, they will not receive that share as defined in your Will.
Many Testators (creators of Wills) consider the fact that their heirs (or the people receiving under their Will) may fight and battle after that person’s death to get their “fair share.” To prevent this, Pennsylvania law recognizes an In Terrorem Clause in Wills. The purpose of an In Terrorem Clause threatens that if anyone challenges the legality of the Will or anything contained in the Will document itself, that person risks receiving nothing or a very minimal share of the estate instead of the gift that person is given in the Will. This clause is intended to discourage beneficiaries under a Will from challenging the Will and causing a legal battle after the Testator has died.
A Will can also define how the person’s inheritance and estate taxes should be paid. Often these are paid out of the residue of the estate (or what is left over after all else is distributed). Another way to account for inheritance/estate taxes is to include language directing the person who receives assets under the Will to pay these taxes themselves.
A Will is also the place where a person makes decisions regarding funeral expenses, type of burial, and any specific instructions with regard to the person’s body disposal instructions or other specific instructions regarding what the family should do when that person dies.
Talk to an experienced Pittsburgh Wills Attorney to determine what provisions should be in your Will to protect your assets.