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Importance of a Valid Last Will and Testament in Pennsylvania
While most of us understand the basic essence of a will, a few of us actually have wills prepared and safely stacked away. Sure, they might have to edit the will a few times before they are satisfied or upon death, but they have their affairs in order. Considering the fact that more than half of the US population does not have a will created, this article hopes to reiterate and clarify why you need a will. You may hit 100, who knows, but, between now and then, a will is crucial as you will see in this article.
What is a will?
This refers to a legal instrument that used to declare the persons or parties you like to inherit your estate upon your demise. As in any other legal instrument, you should understand the terms used in the document. The testator is the creator of the will, the decedent is the deceased person, and the intestate is the legal reference for property to be divided by the state if you do not create a will.
The will can be complex or simple depending on the size of your estate, your wishes, and the debts under your name. You could think of the last will as a legal instrument that lets you control who gets your property or how you’d like the business to be run for it to outlive your first generation.
You should, however, note that you can only use the free last will and testament in Pennsylvania to distribute separate property (probate assets) and not joint assets. Also, on the exempted list are the proceeds of your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, and joint or community property.
On matters regarding exempted property, know that the state enforces the following rules:
- The state gives your surviving spouse the right to inherit a one-third share from the estate and the spouse may or may not take the state-approved inheritance. The properties covered here include:
- The property from the decedent to the spouse either through the will or through the intestacy ruling.
- The income of the spouse from the property given by the decedent in the course of marriage to the extent that the decedent still used the property at the time of death, or if they had interests in or the power to get income from the property
- Property given to the spouse by the decedent and the kind of property which at the time of the decedent’s passing held in the power of the decedent and they could have disposed of it for their own benefit.
Uses of the last will
- Asset distribution
- A free Pennsylvania last will and testament lets you create a list of people or groups you’d like to be your beneficiaries. It outlines your intention to leave your property to the named individuals, and you may want to indicate the share the beneficiaries receive in percentage or dollar value. You should also name who you will bequeath the indivisible assets. If you only use the will to distribute your assets and pay off debts and taxes, then that is a simple will.
- Asset protection
- Did you know that you can use the last will to create trusts which help protect your assets? Well, all you need to do is to create a complex will. A complex will, is as the name suggests rather complex but not that you have to deal with the lengthy legal process but in the sense that you will need the complex will to protect your assets through the creation of trusts.
- The trusts created alongside the will are irrevocable. They include dynasty trusts that help you keep your assets in the family, the education trust which helps in asset accumulation, or the Bypass trust which shelters the inheritance of your spouse from traders and in the event of a divorce.
- Asset protection also includes putting in place a business succession plan or sheltering your estate tax issues using a credit shelter trust.
- Protection of your loved ones
- You will need a complex will here as well. With this will, you can name a guardian for your minor kids, and you could also appoint someone to manage the inheritance received by your kids.
- If you have a special needs kid, you know that you have to protect and care for them for the rest of their life hence the need for a special needs trust. The creation of trusts also extends to kids.
- You also need the will to address any issues regarding second marriages or situations involving blended families.
- Pet protection
- Did you know that you can use a last will and testament to prepare a pet trust? The pet trust will ensure that your pet is well cared for up to its death.
Conditions for the validity of the last will
As per the requirements of code section Tit. 20 §2501, et seq., you should be 18 years or have graduated from high school and of sound mind to create a will. The will must be in writing, and you should sign it.
Regarding the signature, it should be signed by the testator. Alternatively, the signature could be by the testator’s mark. This is: the will should have the testator’s mark written before or even after they make the mark with at least 2 witnesses present. The witnesses must sign the will. The other option for signing the will involves the testator asking someone else to sign the will on their behalf and in their presence. 2 witnesses are needed to affirm this. These two are the only circumstances that call for the presence of witnesses when signing the will.
Lastly, the will must have a list of beneficiaries.
Holographic/ handwritten wills are acceptable.
A will prevents the state from invoking the intestacy laws. But when the laws are put in place, the following things happen.
The surviving spouse inherits the entire estate if you don’t have kids or surviving parents. However, the share of the spouse changes when you have kids and parents.
To get started, you could download our free last will and testament form online in any city including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Erie, Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown, or Scranton, among others.