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What is a Last Will and Testament

 

A Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament, when prepared and executed properly by a person who is an adult of sound mind with legal responsibility for his- or herself, is a formal document that specifies how their assets or estate will be managed and distributed after their death. The person who dies is formally referred to as the decedent. If the decedent has minor children, the Last Will and Testament may also be used to designate who they want to care for their children and who they wish to handle their childrenís inheritance/finances until each child comes of age (usually 18, but you can designate a different age) to handle their finances on their own.

In a Last Will and Testament, the decedent usually also names a personal representativeóor co-personal representatives (two or more persons acting together in this capacity)óto manage the matters of the estate. The personal representative is the person who gathers all of the information about the decedentís debts and assets, pays outstanding debts using the assets on behalf of the estate, and ensures that the decedentís property is distributed as specified in the Will, so this is a job with a lot of responsibility, and the personal representative selected is usually someone the decedent really trusts to follow through on the details and with his or her wishes.

If a person dies without having a valid Last Will and Testament (which usuallyóin most statesómeans it must be properly witnessed, as wellónot just signed), someone will usually be appointed by the court to be the personal representative and will pay the decedentís debts, liquidizing assets as necessary to do so. Then the remaining assets will be distributed among the decedentís heirs according to the laws of the state the decedent lived in.

In some states, if one spouse dies leaving behind a husband or wife, that living spouse will inherit all of the decedentís property in the absence of a Last Will and Testament stating to the contrary. In other cases, the decedent may have specified a particular beneficiary to inherit a life insurance policy, retirement account, or other asset, and that beneficiary designation will dictate who receives those assets in the absence of a Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament.

The important thing to note is that anyone who wishes to designate how their assets will be distributed after their death should prepare and properly execute a Last Will and Testament to ensure their wishes are known and honored. If they donít, they may be leaving it up to chance, the laws of the state in which they reside at the time of their death, or a court of law as to how their final affairs will be settled.  Pennsylvania free information on last will and testament forms.

Legal Requirements for Last Wills in Pennsylvania

A last will in Pennsylvania protects the wishes of the deceased concerning the inheritance of their property. In the paper, a person indicates what and to whom they would like to bequeath after death. Both relatives and charities can be heirs. A person does not have to make a will if they agree to distribute their property under Pennsylvania laws. However, if the owner of the estate wants to clarify some points, they write a testament.

Purposes of a Testament in Pennsylvania

In the absence of a last will, the property of the deceased goes to their relatives in the order of the degree of kinship. The first applicant is their spouse, followed by descendants and parents. If none of these family members are living, the other relatives inherit the deceasedís property. The rules of inheritance are determined by the court under the laws of Pennsylvania. This order can be changed by writing a testament.

A testator describes in detail the parts of the inheritance to be allocated and indicates the person(s) who owns them after their death. The main content of the document is summarized in these points:

  • Specifying the last will executor

  • Description of the testatorís movable and immovable property

  • Appointment of the person(s) who will own the right to part(s) of this estate

  • Establishing the guardian of the testatorís minor children

  • Providing care for elderly relatives

  • Donations to a charitable foundation.

Of course, a testator mentions those points that are relevant to them. A last will allows the court to clearly understand the will of the deceased and appoint heirs according to their wishes. Making a testament allows a person to avoid dividing the inheritance per the general Pennsylvania law and to specify their requirements.

Exceptions to a Testament

Through a last will, a person can distribute a significant part of their property, but not all of it. Pennsylvania law defines the parts of the inheritance that are distributed regardless of the testatorís wishes.

It concerns the share of the deceasedís spouse, who inherits a third of the entire estate. The law implies the transfer to the living spouse of the deceasedís property transferred by a last will or during the life of the deceased. Since some cases are controversial, the court decides what kind of property the deceasedís spouse receives.

Form and Editing of a Last Will

Pennsylvania courts accept both printed and handwritten wills. Please note that in any case, the document must be written in an official form and include all the points, such as a description of the property and the indication of the heirs, as well as the signatures of the testator and witnesses.

If a testator decides to change the document content, they can submit amendments to the will to the state office. The clerk must necessarily certify these changes. Otherwise, they are invalid. A person can also revoke a last will. They need to create another testament indicating that the previous will is no longer valid or destroy the document in the presence of other persons.


 

 

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