A will is often deemed the most crucial estate planning document someone can establish. However, many procrastinate on this task. If you pass away without a will in Pennsylvania, it’s essential to understand what will happen to your estate. The following blog explores why it’s critical to enlist the assistance of estate planning and administration attorneys, as you’ll discover what happens to an estate when the owner passes without a will in place.

How Is an Estate Handled if There is No Will in Pennsylvania?

When the head of an estate passes away without a will, they have died “intestate.” As such, their assets are left in the hands of the state to distribute according to Pennsylvania’s intestate laws of succession.

Generally, a will details who will receive what assets upon the death of the creator. However, when there is no will, the Pennsylvania courts will appoint an executor to distribute the assets according to the following intestate line of succession:

  • If there is a surviving spouse and no children or parents, the spouse receives the entire estate
  • If there is no surviving spouse but children or descendants of the deceased, the children inherit the entire estate
  • If the deceased is survived by a spouse and at least one parent but no children, the spouse receives the first $30,000 and half of the remaining estate, and the parent receives the other half
  • If the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, their spouse receives the first $30,000 and half of the remaining estate, while their descendants inherit the remaining half.
  • This will continue until the state has tried to locate a relative. If there are no living relatives, the state will inherit your estate.

What Should Be Included in a Will?

If you want to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, creating a will is essential. You must begin by including your basic personal information.

Next, you list your assets along with a named beneficiary. Aside from distributing your estate, you must appoint an executor to oversee the administration and distribution of your assets and name guardians for any minor children.

Why Do I Need an Attorney to Assist Me?

As you can see, passing without a will leaves your estate in the hands of the state, and your assets may end up inherited by those you do not wish to receive portions of your estate. As such, it’s essential to enlist the help of an attorney to ensure your wishes are met.

Unfortunately, many attempt to create a will on their own without legal guidance. This can lead to issues for your intended beneficiaries, as there are many things that can invalidate a will, leaving your estate intestate. An attorney can ensure the language in your will represents your wishes while assuring the document is legally binding.

When you need a dedicated firm to guide you through the estate planning process, Berman Voss is ready to assist. Contact the firm today to start this process.