For estate planning purposes, it is essential to remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach because so much of it depends on the individual circumstances and situation of the person. However, the following cheat sheet of frequently asked questions can provide a basic understanding of the estate planning process.
Q: What are the requirements for a valid will?
A: In Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The will must be in writing and signed. Perhaps to its detriment, a will in Pennsylvania does not have to be witnessed to be valid. However, custom usually indicates that two people be present to witness the signing of the will.
Q: What’s Next After Signing the Will?
A: A will should be stored in a safe space that can be easily accessed by representatives after death. The emphasis here is on easily accessible. For instance, some people insist upon keeping their will in a safety deposit box. Though the will is more secure, it presents tremendous hurdles for one’s personal representatives because it delays access to these items when they are needed.
Q: Is a Lawyer Needed to Create a Will?
A: No. In Pennsylvania, a lawyer is not needed. Pennsylvania accepts self-proved wills, which is a will that includes a separate page, notarized and signed by the person and two witnesses. However, if the will has satisfied all the above requirements, a lawyer is not technically required.
Though a lawyer is not needed to create a will, an estate planning attorney can be beneficial in making sure the person’s objectives and goals are completed. The truth of the matter is that estate planning is an incredibly complicated legal proceeding and is the subject of many lawsuits and prolonged litigation. As a result, the importance of proper estate planning with an experienced attorney cannot be emphasized enough, especially when the estate is large, the importance of using the correct legal terms, the order and structure of the document, etc. all become equally important.
Q: What is a Living Will?
A: A Living Will is a document containing the specific instructions about what to do concerning life support and other medical treatment. A living will provides explicit instructions, which allow a designated representative to make decisions about treatment and other end-of-life options in the event of incapacitation. In essence, a Living Will is different than the other traditional estate planning documents but is more focused on providing healthcare decisions.
Q: What happens without a will?
A: If death occurs without proper estate planning, the deceased person is considered “intestate,” and the entire post-mortem procedure is completely governed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s prescribed rules and laws. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created a set of rules and guidelines to organize and divide any remaining assets of the deceased person. Because this is a completely formalized process, there is no leniency. Thus, the property may be distributed to people not normally included if estate planning had occurred.
Call to schedule a consultation with Kim A. Bodnar, Attorney at Law in our Pittsburgh office.
NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Check out what others are saying about our services on Yelp: Read our Yelp reviews.