What is a Simple Will?

A simple will in Pennsylvania is a legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the appointment of a personal representative (executor) to handle the administration of their estate after their death. While the specific requirements and language may vary, here are the key elements typically included in a simple will in Pennsylvania:

Personal information

The will should begin with your full name, residence, and other identifying details.

Appointment of an executor

You can designate an executor who will be responsible for managing your estate, paying debts, and distributing assets according to the instructions in your will. It is advisable to choose someone you trust, such as a family member or a close friend. Pennsylvania law allows individuals who are 18 years or older, of sound mind, and not a convicted felon, to serve as executors.

Beneficiary designations

Clearly specify the individuals or organizations (beneficiaries) who will inherit your assets. You can include specific bequests (such as leaving a certain amount of money or a particular item to a specific person) or make general bequests (such as dividing your estate equally among your children).

Guardianship provisions

If you have minor children, you can name a guardian who will have custody and care for them if both parents pass away. It is crucial to have open discussions with the intended guardian(s) beforehand and obtain their consent.

Residual clause

This clause covers how any remaining assets should be distributed after fulfilling specific bequests. You can designate individuals or organizations as residual beneficiaries.

Alternative provisions

It is wise to include alternative provisions in case your primary beneficiaries predecease you or cannot inherit for any reason. This ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Witnesses and signatures

A valid will in Pennsylvania must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in the presence of at least two witnesses who are at least 18 years old. The witnesses should also sign the will in the presence of the testator.

It’s important to note that while a simple will can be effective for many individuals, those with complex estates, blended families, significant assets, or specific concerns may require more comprehensive estate planning strategies or additional legal documents. Consulting with an estate planning attorney in Pennsylvania is recommended to ensure your will meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your intentions.