If you are thinking about planning your estate, drafting a will is likely one of the first tasks on your list. A valid will can convey all of the assets and personal property that you own. Therefore, it is important that you understand the requirements necessary to create a legal will in Pennsylvania. If you or a family member needs assistance drafting a valid will, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer.
At Herr Potts and Potts, our lawyers are dedicated to helping you meet your estate planning goals. We understand the vital need to ensure your family is well-taken care after you pass away and we are here for you. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your will, call us at (610) 254-0114.
When is a Will Valid in Pennsylvania?
There are several requirements you must adhere to if you want to create a valid will in Pennsylvania. Failing to meet all these requirements may result in your will being declared invalid and Pennsylvania determining that you died intestate (without a will).
To create a valid will in Pennsylvania, the will creator (testator) must be 18 years of age and must possess a “sound mind.” Possessing a sound mind means that the testator is mentally competent and fully understands what property they own and who they are conveying their property to. According to Pennsylvania state code section 2502, the will must also be in writing and be signed at the bottom of the document. Pennsylvania does not make a distinction between wills that are handwritten and wills that are typed. However, not all handwritten wills may be deemed valid.
If a testator has fallen ill and is unable to draft a will, they can instruct another person to do so on their behalf. Pennsylvania does not have a requirement that there must be witnesses to a will execution, but two witnesses must identify the testator’s signature during the probate process. However, if the testator needs another person to write and sign their will, she must declare to two witnesses that the document is their last will and testament and those witnesses must sign their names to the will in the testator’s presence. If a testator is too sick to sign their name, they can also make an identifying mark in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign the document.
While this is not a requirement, it is also normal for a testator to appoint a personal representative in their will. A personal representative must oversee the administration of the decedent’s estate. This means that the personal representative will be responsible for submitting the will for probate and gathering and distributing the assets of the testator.
If a will was executed outside of Pennsylvania, the law of the state the testator resided in might be used to determine the will’s validity. If you need to know more about will requirements in Pennsylvania, you should speak with an experienced Delaware County elder law lawyer.
Challenging the Validity of a Will
If you believe that a will created by a family member is invalid, you have a few options you can use to pursue a will contest. One way to challenge a will is by stating that the will was signed under duress. As mentioned above, a will must be voluntarily executed, and the testator must be aware of the gravity of their actions. Forcing an individual to sign a document will result in the will being declared invalid.
Another will contest that can be utilized is alleging the testator was a victim of undue influence. Undue influence claims typically require that three factors are proved to show a will is invalid:
- The testator had a confidential relationship with an individual who influenced many of their decisions
- The testator suffered from a weakened intellect and struggled to make appropriate decisions for their well-being
- The testator gave the lion’s share of their estate to a certain person or organization
Other examples of will contests include:
- Challenging a forged will
- A surviving spouse is excluded from the will
- The testator did not have testamentary capacity when they signed the will
- The assets of the testator are poorly managed
Our Chester County Attorneys Can Help You Draft Your Will
If you or a family member needs to draft a valid will, you should consult with an experienced Chester County elder law attorney. At Herr Potts and Potts, we will work with you to discover and accomplish all of your estate planning needs. Our firm has served residents of Chester County and southeast Pennsylvania for over 80 years, and we would be honored to represent you. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at (610) 254-0114 or reach us online.