In general, the process of writing a will is the same in every state. But it’s the differences that matter; each state has its own set of laws that define what constitutes a legally valid will. If you do not meet the state’s specific standards, the court is likely to reject your will. When you make a will in Pennsylvania, double-check that you understand all of the legal requirements for a will to be recognized as valid. When make a will online in Pennsylvania, be sure the template is customized for Pennsylvania.
Can I Make a Will Online in Pennsylvania?
Yes, in Pennsylvania, you can make a will online. Use an online will making service to do so. USLegalWills is our recommendation for an online last will and testament.
The legal requirements for a will to be valid in Pennsylvania are:
- The Testator (the person writing the will) must be at least 18 years of age.
- The Testator must be of sound mind.
- The will must be in writing. If you make an online will, you must print it out.
- The Testator must sign the will at the end of the document.
Pennsylvania does not require witnesses to sign the will, unless the Testator could not sign the will and instructed someone else to do so on their behalf (or only was able to sign using a mark). However, the court will require proof of the Testator’s signature and may call upon witnesses to attest to the validity of the will. To avoid potential complications, it is best to make your will “self-proved” (discussed below).
Does Pennsylvania Require a Notarized Will?
Pennsylvania does not require for your will to be notarized for it to be valid; however, it is a good idea to do so. When a will is presented to the probate court, it must be validated. While Pennsylvania does not require witnesses to attest the will for it to be valid, the process to validate a will can become complicated. The easiest way to avoid any issues when your will is presented to probate is to make your will “self-proved.” This is done before a notary public.
To “self-prove” a will in Pennsylvania, you can sign the will and make a sworn statement before a notary public.
Once you have this notarized affidavit, you attach it to the will and now it is considered “self-proved.” This speeds up the process for the court to validate your will; often the court will automatically accept the will as valid and continue on with the probate process.
If you signed your will in front of witnesses who also signed it, you and your witnesses have to go before a notary to make your will “self-proved.” You then attach your and your witnesses’ notarized sworn statements to your will.
Can I Name an Executor in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, an executor can be named in an online will. The executor is the person designated to settle the estate and ensure that the will is followed after the Testator’s death. It is a good idea to name an executor in the will. You want to choose someone you know well and trust; you want to pick someone who is organized, able to keep track of details, and otherwise up to the task. Make sure you discuss it with them before you name them as the executor in your will.
If an executor is not named in the will in Pennsylvania, the probate court will appoint an executor to handle the estate.
There are only two requirements for a person to qualify to serve as the executor of an estate in Pennsylvania. The person must be at least 18 years old and must be of sound mind—which generally means that the person must be a competent adult.
Pennsylvania allows out-of-state executors and does not impose any special requirements on them. However, the register of wills has the discretion to “refuse letters” to a nonresident executor. It is unlikely for this to happen, unless there are compelling reasons. If an out-of-state executor is your best choice, feel free to name them. But for practical purposes, as the process to settle an estate can take months or even longer, you might want to consider naming someone who lives in-state and nearby.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Will in Pennsylvania?
No, you do not need an attorney to make a will in Pennsylvania. If you have a simple estate and your will is straightforward, using an online will making service is a good option. You want to make sure you execute your will properly so that the court recognizes it as valid. You also want to make sure you use an online will making service that has a customized template for Pennsylvania.
However, if you have a large or complex estate, or if your will is more complicated—it is always best to consult an estate planning attorney.
What Types of Wills Are Valid in Pennsylvania?
Any type of will which meets the federal and state-specific requirements is valid in Pennsylvania, whether the will is made online or not.
Can I Make a Holographic Will in Pennsylvania?
A handwritten will signed only by the Testator (the person who made the will) is considered a holographic will.
Since Pennsylvania does not have a witness requirement, state code does not have any meaningful distinction between a handwritten (holographic) and a typed will. However, holographic wills often face challenges during probate, even if they are made “self-proved.”
Often, when someone makes a holographic will, they forget to include important provisions or use unclear language—they might not use the language necessary for the document to be considered a will. So while the court might accept a holographic will as valid, it is better to use an online will making service to avoid such complications.
Can I Make a Nuncupative or Video Will in Pennsylvania?
A nuncupative will is an oral will, sometimes left in a video. Nuncupative wills are generally considered to be an emergency or last resort type of will. If a person is facing imminent death, they might feel compelled to leave a will. However, Pennsylvania does not recognize nuncupative wills.
Any nuncupative will made in Pennsylvania will not be accepted by the court—the court will not enforce any terms left in a nuncupative will. The state will consider that the person died without a will, and the court will follow the intestacy laws of the state.
If time and health allow, it is best to make a will in Pennsylvania that meets all the statutory requirements for a valid will.
How Is a Living Will Different from an Online Will in Pennsylvania?
A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that contains medical decisions and instructions for end-of-life care. A living will and a last will and testament are two separate documents that serve two distinct purposes. A living will contains your medical directives should you become incapacitated, whereas your last will and testament contains matters pertaining to your estate and other instructions for after death. Medical directives or end-of-life care instructions are ineffective and unenforceable if included in a last will and testament. You can make both a living will and a last will and testament online—for more information about living wills in Pennsylvania, you can go here.
Here is an overview of the guidelines for a living will in Pennsylvania:
- The declarant must be at least 18 years old, or graduated from high school, or married; the declarant must be of sound mind.
- The declarant must sign the document in front of two adult witnesses.
- It is only effective when a physician certifies, in writing, that they determine the declarant to meet conditions set by state law (such as: incapacitated, unable to communicate).
- It is not effective during pregnancy, unless “it will not maintain a woman so as to permit live birth.”
Why Do I Need to Make a Will Online in Pennsylvania?
When someone dies without a will, there are laws that determine exactly what happens. If there are minor children, the state will appoint a guardian. The court will name someone to act as the executor of the estate. The estate is then divided between surviving family members in accordance with Pennsylvania’s intestacy distribution laws. This can become a lengthy, complex legal process. It is not uncommon for property to be held up in probate for months or years. To avoid this, you should make a will.
If you have children or if you own property (especially if you want to distribute your estate in a specific way), it is important to have a valid will. You want to make sure that your family is well taken care of in the event that something happens to you.
What Can I Include in an Online Will in Pennsylvania?
When you make a will in Pennsylvania, online or otherwise, you can include the following:
- You can name an executor for your estate.
- You can name a guardian for any minor children.
- You can name a guardian to oversee any property left to minor children.
- You can leave gifts or property to family or friends.
- You can leave gifts or property to charities or organizations.
- You can name someone to care for any remaining pets.
- You can distribute heirlooms and sentimental items.
- You can distribute personal or sentimental items.
What Should Not Be Included in a Will in Pennsylvania?
You should not include medical directives, end-of-life care, or funeral instructions in your will.
A will is typically not consulted until after death and after the funeral, when the process to settle the estate begins. Any funeral directions left in a will might not be known until after the arrangements are already made. Any medical directives or end-of-life care stipulations left in a will are not considered legally binding, as these need to fulfill other requirements to be effective.
For medical directives and end-of-life care, you should make a living will.
For funeral directions, you can speak with a family member or create a separate document outlining what you want for your funeral. Be sure to give this document to the executor of your estate and other trusted family members.
Can I Change or Revoke an Online Will Made in Pennsylvania?
Whether you make a will online or otherwise, a properly executed will is a legally binding document. If you need to make changes or decide you want to revoke the will, you can do so at any time.
In Pennsylvania, here are ways to change or revoke a will:
- You can destroy it physically in a revocatory act (such as, burning, tearing, shredding, or other destroying it).
- You can order someone else to physically destroy it in front of you and two other witnesses.
- You can make a new will stating that you revoke the old one.
- You can write a document that states you revoke your will, formalizing it in the same way as a will.
It’s a good idea to update the will following important life events like marriage or divorce, birth or adoption of a child, the acquisition of large assets that affect the distribution of property, or a move to another state or country. When making major changes to your will, it is best to revoke your old one and make a new one. You can add a codicil (a document with the changes that you amend to your will) if you just want to make small adjustments. A codicil must be finalized in the same manner as the original will.
How Do I Finalize an Online Will in Pennsylvania?
After you make a will in Pennsylvania, you want to follow these steps to finalize it:
- If you made it online, you want to print it out.
- You want to sign at the end of the document.
Because Pennsylvania does not have a witness requirement but still might require witness testimony when a will is presented to probate, you should consider making your will “self-proved.”
To make your will “self-proved” in Pennsylvania, sign the will and make a sworn statement before a notary public. If you did have witnesses sign the will, you and your witness must all go before the notary. Attach these notarized documents to your will.
Be sure to consider these special considerations in Pennsylvania:
- Divorce automatically revokes any language that leaves property to your former spouse (if they are the named executor, that is also void).
USLegalWills is a leading provider of online wills. Their service has helped millions of people create a last will and testament over the last twenty years. We like that their services are easy to understand, reasonably priced, and produce an accurate document. You can also create a Living Will and other key end-of-life documents. It’s an affordable, accessible way to create an online last will and testament now. No more procrastinating. Get started with USLegalWills and leave your estate in order for your loved ones.