Estate Planning Does Not Have To Be Complicated
Thinking about the inevitable – your mortality – is never comfortable. It’s only natural. However, the reality is there will come a time when you pass and your estate – your assets – will have to pass to other people in your family or in your life. If you have thoughts on how you would like those assets to pass, and to whom, you must have a will. It is the cornerstone of effective estate planning documents.
The wills attorneys at Grace Legal Offices have years of experience as estate planning lawyers and are knowledgeable of the applicable state law, how to create a will, secure your estates and finances, make sure your affairs are in order, and prepare you for when the time comes for a distribution of your assets.
What Is A Will?
Pennsylvania law allows individuals to create a valid will without the need for an attorney. Such a will is known as a “holographic will.” However, there are specific requirements that must be met for the holographic will to be considered legally valid:
- Handwriting: The entire will must be written in the testator’s handwriting. Typed or printed wills are not considered valid holographic wills.
- Testamentary Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind and of legal age (at least 18 years old) when creating the holographic will.
- Intent: The document must clearly indicate that it is intended to serve as the testator’s last will and testament.
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator at the end of the document.
Unlike formal wills that require two witnesses, holographic wills do not require witness signatures. However, it’s important to note that these wills can be more susceptible to challenges or disputes, as they may not follow the typical formalities associated with more formal or traditional wills.
While you can create your own will, it is generally advisable to consult with qualified estate planning attorneys. A wills attorney can help ensure that your will meets all legal requirements, address potential issues, and provide guidance on other aspects of estate planning to protect your assets and make your intentions clear to avoid confusion and potential disputes among your beneficiaries.
Secure your future and ensure peace of mind with the help of an experienced attorney.
What To Include In Your Will
In the state of Pennsylvania, a will serves as a legally binding document that empowers an individual, referred to as the testator, to outline the desired distribution of their assets and property following their passing. This vital component of estate planning enables the testator to determine how their estate passes while also appointing a capable executor to ensure the smooth administration of their estate.
Key elements of a valid will in Pennsylvania include:
- Testamentary Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind and understand the nature of their actions when creating the will.
- Intent: The document must clearly indicate that it is intended to serve as the last will and testament.
- Writing: The will must be in writing (holographic will).
- Signature: The testator must sign the will at the end of the document or acknowledge their signature in the presence of two witnesses.
- Witnesses: Two competent witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator, acknowledging that they witnessed the testator’s signing.
- Executor: The testator may name a personal representative, who will be responsible for administering the estate and carrying out the instructions in the will.
Can I Make My Own Will?
A simple will should contain certain essential elements to ensure that your wishes are met and that your assets are distributed according to your instructions. While a will can be customized to fit individual circumstances, here are the key components that should be included in a simple will:
- Executor: Appoint a personal representative who will be responsible for administering your estate and ensuring that your intentions are carried out.
- Beneficiaries: Clearly specify the individuals or organizations who will inherit your assets and property. Be as specific as possible in identifying them.
- Bequests: Outline what assets or specific items you want to leave to each beneficiary. You can be as detailed or general as you prefer.
- Residuary Clause: Include a residuary clause to address any assets that have not been specifically mentioned in the will. This clause ensures that any remaining assets are distributed according to your intentions.
- Guardianship: If you have minor children, designate a guardian(s) to care for them in case both parents pass away before the minors reach adulthood.
- Digital Assets: Consider including provisions for your digital assets, such as online accounts and passwords, to ensure that your digital presence is managed appropriately after your death.
- Funeral and Burial Instructions: You may include your preferences regarding your funeral, burial, or any other specific arrangements you wish to be followed.
It’s important to note that creating a will is a significant legal step, and the document should be carefully drafted to reflect your intentions accurately. While simple wills can be sufficient for many individuals, some situations may require more complex estate planning tools. If you are uncertain about how to create a will or your estate planning needs, be sure to consult with one of Grace Legal’s wills attorneys.
Protecting Your Estates and Families In Harrisburg, PA
Grace Legal has experienced estate planning attorneys you can turn to if you have questions or concerns about creating a will, living will, durable powers of attorney, or any other estate matter. We have been serving clients in Harrisburg, PA, and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania.
Our estate planning lawyers will provide cost estimates for creating estate planning documents, including wills, and do everything to protect families. Call today for a consultation with a wills lawyer.
What An Estate Planning Attorney Does
A wills attorney, also known as an estate planning attorney, plays a crucial role in creating a comprehensive and legally valid will tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. An experienced attorney offers several advantages that may not be achievable on your own:
- Legal Expertise: A wills attorney has in-depth knowledge of estate planning laws and regulations specific to your state, including Pennsylvania. They can ensure that your will adheres to all legal requirements, reducing the risk of errors or potential challenges.
- Tailored Estate Planning: An attorney can assess your unique financial situation, family dynamics, and specific goals to create a customized will that addresses your intentions.
- Avoiding Ambiguities: Wills attorneys are skilled in drafting clear and unambiguous language in your will. This can help avoid misunderstandings or disputes among your beneficiaries after your passing.
- Complex Situations: If you have substantial assets, a blended family, minor children, or beneficiaries with special needs, an attorney can develop more sophisticated estate planning strategies, such as setting up trusts or establishing guardianship provisions.
- Asset Protection: An attorney can advise you on ways to protect your assets from potential creditors or ensure they are distributed as per your wishes in complex financial situations.
- Avoiding Probate Delays: A well-drafted will by an attorney can streamline the probate process and reduce the likelihood of delays.
- Updating the Will: As life changes, your will may need to be updated. An attorney can help you with modifications or amendments to ensure your will remains up-to-date and legally valid.
- Counseling on Options: A wills attorney can explain various options available to you, such as living wills, powers of attorney, and other advance directives, to address not only the distribution of assets but also healthcare decisions and incapacity planning.
- Peace of Mind: Working with an attorney provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your estate plan has been professionally prepared and meets all legal requirements, reducing the likelihood of challenges or issues in the future.
While creating a will on your own is possible, engaging a wills lawyer offers many benefits and helps ensure that your estate planning needs are fully met, protecting your assets and securing your legacy for your loved ones.