According to the American Bar Association, 55% of Americans die without having their wills in place. An astonishing number, but not surprising as many individuals believe that you must be wealthy to have an estate plan. However, that simply is not true. No matter the size of your estate, having a will in place will protect your family from uncertainty when you are no longer here. If you need a will, the Scranton estate planning attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano are here for you.
Why do people need wills?
This is a question we hear all the time. Everyone needs a will (but not everyone needs a trust). Failure to create a will prior to your death can be problematic for your loved ones in the future.
In Pennsylvania, if you die without a will, you die intestate. This means that all of your property will be distributed according to state intestacy laws, giving your assets to your closest relatives and children. However, if you do not have a spouse or children, who does that leave it to?
Under the law, your assets would then be distributed to your grandchildren, your parents, and continue down your closest relative list. If there is no family to collect your estate, the state will take claim of it.
How can I create a will?
While you may be familiar with the DIY online will programs, we strongly encourage you to hire an estate planning attorney to help you draft your will. When you create a will online, you may set your family up for disadvantage, or worse — it may not even be valid.
To create a valid will in Pennsylvania, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old and of sound mind
- Declare that the will is yours and sign the document(s) in front of two witnesses
While that seems simple enough, it can actually be rather difficult. While you must declare that the will is yours, your witnesses must also be able to attest in court that it is, in fact, your will at the time of your passing.
If there is suspicion that the will is not yours, and thus not valid, your family may begin to investigate undue influence.
What should be included in my will?
While we primarily focus on what assets you would like to give to whom at the time of your passing, there is a lot of other information you may want to include inside your will. Such terms may be:
- The executor of your estate
- Account numbers
- Burial instructions
While this is not a fully comprehensive list, you will want to speak to an attorney about the possibilities in creating your will.
Can people revoke their wills?
In Pennsylvania, you can revoke or change your will at any time. This may be done by:
- Burning, tearing, or destroying your will with the intent to revoke it
- Ordering someone else to destroy your will in front of you and two other witnesses
- Making another will that revokes your current will
It’s important to update your will during major life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, birth of a child, etc., as this can change the terms of your will drastically.
I need a will. Can Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano help me?
If you are in need of a will, the Scranton estate planning attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano are here for you. We can guide you through the process to ensure your will is not only all-encompassing of your wishes but is also valid at the time of your passing.