Wills And Estates FAQ

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Questions About Wills And Estates In Pennsylvania

Q: Why is it a good idea to have a will?

A: Having a will allows you to exercise control over where your assets go when you pass. If you do not have a will, your property will pass under intestacy laws. Property that passes by intestacy may very well not be as you would have chosen.

Q: What is the difference between a will and living will?

A: A will directs where your property will go when you die. A living will indicates your instructions regarding medical care in the event you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. And a health care proxy designates someone to decide for you, based on your guidelines or instructions, if you become incapacitated.

Q: Does someone who is young and healthy need a will?

A: Even someone who is young and single should have a will. After all, serious accidents and illnesses can happen even to young, healthy people. Having a will allows you to put a plan in place so that you don’t burden others unnecessarily.

Q: What does it take to make a valid will in Pennsylvania?

A. As in other states, it is necessary for the person who makes a will to be of sound mind. This means that if someone’s mental faculties are slipping due to dementia or other issues, it is especially important to get a will in place while the person in question has the capacity to do so.

Q: What is a “holographic will?”

A: Under Pennsylvania law, a writing that gives specific instructions about property division and is signed at the end by the testator is valid under certain circumstances. But the signature must be at the end; it cannot be elsewhere in the document.

Q: When do I need to change my will?

A: Whenever a life event occurs, it is important to update your will. This includes marriage, divorce, the birth of a child and the death of a beneficiary.

Q: Will I be affected by inheritance tax?

A: The federal exemption for estate and gift tax is now over $5 million. But at the state level in Pennsylvania, inheritance tax returns are generally required for everyone but a surviving spouse.

Q: What role do executors or administrators play?

A: See the discussion on our page on fiduciaries.

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At Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik, P.C., our attorneys have decades of experience helping people put their estate planning and administration houses in order. Call us at to set up a confidential consultation or simply fill out our online form. Our lawyers serve clients in Bucks County, Northeast Philadelphia and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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