You may have heard the term “simple will” or seen it advertised or discussed on the Internet, and wonder what exactly it is and what it can do to protect your assets. First off, it is important to understand that the rules affecting wills and inheritance (often called “Trusts and Estates” law or “Estate Planning”) are for the most part determined by state law, although there can be federal implications, especially in the case of taxation.
In Pennsylvania, there is no specific legal use of the phrase “simple will” and instead a will used to distribute a person’s assets upon their death is referred to as a “Last Will and Testament.” When you hear someone refer to a “simple will” in Pennsylvania, this is referencing the relative ease (“simple”) of creating a will, and you can understand that a simple will is referring to a Last Will and Testament, which we’ll just refer to as a “will” here.
Why Create a Will?
Despite the widespread basic knowledge of wills, many people die without having wills, especially those who die at relatively young ages (Prince, Amy Winehouse, and Michael Jackson are just recent examples of those who died without a will, leaving vast fortunes tied up in the courts). Thus, a brief overview of the benefits of having a will is in order.
Most importantly, having a will means that you get to decide how your assets are distributed upon your death. If you die without a will, then a state probate court will determine how your assets are distributed, based on state intestacy rules which direct that assets be distributed to family members by certain portions and percentages. Through creating a will, you can direct your assets without the state’s involvement and you can give your intended beneficiaries the peace of mind that they will be taken care of following your death.
Does a Will Protect Assets?
By drafting a will and utilizing other estate planning resources, you can also structure the distribution of your assets upon your death to avoid taxation issues and expensive probate costs that will be assessed against your estate, and potentially protect assets from creditors so that they can be passed on to your intended beneficiaries. A basic will on its own will not necessarily achieve all of these results, but you may choose to utilize other estate planning tools such as certain types of trusts to achieve those other objectives. If the will is validly executed under the laws of Pennsylvania, it will at least avoid having your assets distributed pursuant to the laws of intestacy.
Work With An Experienced Attorney In Creating Your Pennsylvania Will
There are many “do-it-yourself” or bargain-basement will options on the Internet, which are often simply forms available for free elsewhere with limited instructions. Because so much is at stake in making sure your assets are protected upon your death and passed on to your intended beneficiaries, it makes sense to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process to make sure it is done properly and that all of your estate planning objectives are met.
The experienced Montgomery County, PA Will lawyers at The Martin Law Firm have drafted hundreds of Wills for individuals, couples and families throughout Pennsylvania. Contact a The Martin Law Firm today at (215) 646-3980 to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning goals.