A will is a powerful document that determines what happens to an individual’s assets after they die. The effort required to draft a will could go to waste if someone fails to comply with state law. An estate plan that the probate courts won’t uphold is not worth the paper that someone used to create their documents, let alone the money and time invested in the process.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance for testators to ensure that they comply with all Pennsylvania state laws when putting together estate planning paperwork. For many people, the most important document in their estate plan, or perhaps the only document in their estate plan, is their will.
A will can name beneficiaries who will inherit certain assets, outline someone’s funeral plans and designate a guardian for vulnerable children. A will that does not meet Pennsylvania state requirements may not achieve any of those goals.
Every situation is subject to different rules
There is no universal rule that applies to every estate planning scenario in Pennsylvania. An individual’s health, family circumstances and legacy wishes all influence how they should structure their estate plan.
For the average person putting together a will with the help of an attorney, no witnesses are necessary for their documents to have legal authority in the Pennsylvania probate courts. However, there are sometimes witness requirements that apply. Specifically, when someone is unable to sign the will themselves because of medical issues, it may be necessary to have two witnesses validate their involvement in the creation of their testamentary documents.
Many lawyers will recommend that testators have two adult witnesses present when they assign their documents that to ensure there won’t be conflict about someone’s testamentary capacity or possible fraud after someone’s passing. The people who serve as witnesses will need to be at least 18 years old and generally should not have an interest in the estate to avoid any conflict of interest. Still, their presence is not strictly necessary for the validity of most wills drafted in Pennsylvania.
Learning more about the rules that apply to escape planning in Pennsylvania can help people create documents that will hold up even during probate court proceedings.