The most important reason to make a Will in Pennsylvania is to set forth your intention for how your assets are to be distributed upon your death. Despite the widespread basic knowledge of the need for a Last Will and Testament, many people die without having a Will. Too often, people want to avoid thinking about their passing or they simply procrastinate until it is too late. For those who die without a will, the Pennsylvania Intestacy laws will govern the distribution of your estate and that distribution may be contrary to your wishes. When you make a Will, it will give you peace of mind that your assets will be given to the right people or charities.
When Should I Make A Will In Pennsylvania?
For some, major life milestones will trigger the need, desire and momentum to make a Will.
You met the man or woman of your dreams, you fell head over heels, the proposal was perfect, and you had a fabulous wedding. Now, it’s time to get serious about making a Will. When you get married, you’re likely to introduce many new people into your life, and you may want to consider some of those people in your Will, including your new spouse. Many newly married couples wrongfully assume that all of their assets will automatically pass to their spouse in the event of their death. This isn’t exactly correct. If you die without a Will in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Intestacy Laws will not necessarily allow all of your assets to pass to your surviving spouse.
Having a Child
The addition of a child to your life, whether through birth or adoption, is reason to take action toward making a Will in Pennsylvania. All young parents should have a Will that has been drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney. As a parent, making a Will is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that your child is cared for by the people you would choose if anything should happen to you. You can designate a guardian to care for your children in the event that you die before they become adults. You can also establish a Trust in your Will for the benefit of young children and select a Trustee to manage assets for your kids until they reach adulthood.
If you have a Will and you subsequently get divorced, it is imperative that you revisit the document as soon as possible to make the appropriate changes with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer. Not only do you need to make the appropriate adjustments to remove your ex-spouse from your Will, but you should perform a comprehensive review of the people named in your Will. Go through your list of beneficiaries, executors, guardians, and trustees to consider whether your relationship with them has changed.
Updating Your Will
Some individuals already have a Will, but certain events in your life should trigger a need to revise your Will and failing to do so could have catastrophic effects on your estate plan. Simply stated, major life events should trigger you to call your attorney and at least ask whether or not you should update your Will.
Death of a Loved One
The most common major life events revolve around the life and death of your loved ones. If a loved one has passed and that person was named as a beneficiary of all or a portion of your estate, or was named as a Personal Representative, Guardian for a minor child, or a Trustee in charge of managing assets left for someone else, then the Will should be revised.
Marriage or Divorce
If you get married, you will need to update your Will to include your spouse. Your spouse will not automatically inherit everything unless he or she is named in the Will. Married couples usually prepare “sweetheart” Wills, which essentially leave everything to the other spouse and have similar provisions in the event both spouses pass at the same time in an accident or other unfortunate occurrence.
If you have children, your Will should be updated to include them and trust provisions if they are minors. You should also name Guardians for the children and a Trustee to manage the Trust. Once your children reach the age of 18, the need to name a guardian for minor children will vanish. Upon your kids reaching adulthood; however, you should consider your estate plan carefully. Perhaps there are certain bequests you might like to revise, or you might even want to name one of your children as an executor.
If you move to another state, you should consult an estate planning attorney in the new state to determine whether your Will is still valid. Laws regarding Wills and probate and estate administration vary from state to state, so it is important to ensure that your Will meets your new state’s requirements. An attorney in the new state may recommend a living trust as a Will substitute. Be sure to review your other estate planning documents as well.
Substantial change in assets
You will want to revise your Will as your assets increase. This increase can be sudden, triggered by the receipt of a large inheritance or by starting a business, or it may be subtle, occurring gradually as you mature. Regardless, as you acquire wealth, changes to your estate plan will likely be necessary to accomplish new objectives. Taxes will become a far more important issue, and appropriate tax planning strategies could save your heirs thousands in federal estate taxes. As such, you should consult an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss any revisions that may be necessary to account for your improved financial situation.
Substantial change in the law
Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys can advise clients of the impact of changes to the law, but you need to be sure to keep up with state and national news for things that may affect you. A variety of state and federal laws can affect an estate, depending on each person’s particular situation. These laws change regularly, so it is important that you are aware of the impact changes will have on your estate plan.
In addition to the above, it is important to review your Will and other estate planning documents regularly. It is good practice to review your Will every 3-5 years just like taking your car to the mechanic for routine inspection.
Contact Us For Guidance On Making A Will In PA
The Martin Law Firm, P.C. is an estate planning law firm in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. We help local individuals and families with the creation of Wills and other estate planning documents to ensure that your wishes and objectives will be met in the event of an unforeseen issue. Creating a Last Will & Testament is important to protecting your family and preserving your family’s wealth, and it is equally important to be aware of changes that may affect you. Contact us today at 215-646-3980 to schedule an appointment.