Free Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament (Form & Template)

In Pennsylvania, the last will and testament is a document that governs the disposition of a person’s property upon death. A will sets forth how property is distributed to beneficiaries named in the document.

The person who writes the will is called the testator.  The last functions as an estate planning tool for individuals who have accumulated significant assets or wish to take care of loved ones after their death. The main terms of this document are drafted by the person who leaves behind such properties or stipulates what should happen to them after his or her death.

The last will and testament can be written to give away – via bequest or devise – a property that the testator owns outright, such as real property, bank accounts, etc. It also can include personal possessions, such as automobiles, jewelry, furniture, and artwork. Pennsylvania courts will accept the last will and testament as valid if it was not made under duress or fraud or if it was written to avoid probate, which is the legal process of settling and administering an estate. The last will may also be used to name a personal representative responsible for settling the estate and a guardian who manages finances for a child or a disabled individual. 

This article offers information on how to draft a last will and testament in Pennsylvania and its uses.

Associated Laws

Pennsylvania’s last wills and testaments are governed by statutes under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 20 Decedents, Estates, and Fiduciaries, Chapter 25: Wills. For the last will to be valid and enforceable, it must satisfy the requirements under these laws. Firstly, it must fall within the definition provided under (Title 20 § 102). The law defines a “will” as any written will, testamentary writing, or codicil.

To qualify as a testator, you must be 18 years of age or older and of sound mind, according to 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2501. The last will and testament must satisfy signing requirements. You should provide your name and signature. These basic requirements do not include witnesses. Normally as long as you meet the writing and signing requirements witnesses are not required when you sign your will.

However, there are specific situations when witnesses are needed, such as when the testator cannot sign his name but must make a mark on the will or when he is unable to do either and must have someone else sign the document on his behalf. This has to be done in front of two witnesses who sign their names (20 PA.C.S.A. 2502 (2) and (3). 

Although it is not necessary by law, it is preferable to have witnesses sign the last will and testament in Pennsylvania because it ensures the legitimacy of the document, which is crucial throughout the probate process.

You can also self-prove your will by signing it in the presence of a notary public and signing affidavits that verify and acknowledge your intent to execute the will. After being notarized, the affidavits should be attached to the last will –  20 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3132.1.

Do I Require a Lawyer to Write a Will in Pennsylvania?

While these documents can be drafted without a lawyer, it is advisable to have an attorney ensure that the last will and testament is valid and enforceable per Pennsylvania law and that all steps are properly executed. In most cases, there are many legal requirements for a last will that need to be met before the document can be legally valid.

In addition, it is also advisable to have a lawyer ensure that there is nothing missing from the document that could lead to legal challenges after your death. As the person who is leaving behind all of your properties, you should determine the main details (property, beneficiaries, and the executor) of this document. A lawyer can draft it to ensure that it complies with all the requirements under the law.

With the knowledge of all applicable laws, you can create a legally valid Pennsylvania last will yourself. You can prepare the will by yourself or use a professionally designed template that can be used in Pennsylvania. You should, however, familiarize yourself with the applicable state laws and ensure all the required provisions and elements are included in the document.

Note: A last will and testament in Pennsylvania does not have to be typed. Instead, the testator can also handwrite their last will.

Handwritten Vs. Typed Will 

Typed and handwritten (holographic) wills are accepted in Pennsylvania. Although it is not required, it is strongly advised that both kinds of wills be notarized and witnessed. It increases the document’s legitimacy. In addition, the two witnesses ought not to be beneficiaries of the estate under the will. Handwritten last wills should be in your handwriting and must be entirely handwritten and not partially handwritten and partially typed. Also, if notarized, any self-proving affidavit should be witnessed and notarized. 

Note: There are no state guidelines regarding the preparation and execution of digital or electronic last wills and testaments in Pennsylvania. However, since the state acknowledges last wills made in other states and is compliant with the respective state’s laws, digital wills can be accepted in Pennsylvania under 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2504.1.

How to Write a Will

It is essential to ensure that the last will and testament being used in Pennsylvania has all the necessary information to dispense property to the beneficiaries.

The last will can be created in several steps, as discussed below:

Identify beneficiaries

Beneficiaries should be named in the first section of the will after the formalities. If a beneficiary dies during this process, you should identify a new one as soon as possible.

Prepare an inventory of assets

The next step is to prepare an inventory of all assets. It is imperative to list all the assets in the will. This includes lands and properties as well as financial holdings such as savings accounts, material possessions (e.g., jewelry and furniture), and physical assets such as vehicles, pets, and collectibles. 

Assign assets to beneficiaries

After identifying and listing assets, the next step is to allocate these assets and properties to beneficiaries. This process should be based on your wishes and financial abilities. The distribution of individual items should be duly noted. For instance, if you want to give your daughter your car, you need to ensure that such wishes are put in writing in the will. Please be aware that you can have different provisions for alternate beneficiaries and beneficiaries’ shares.

Name an executor

After disbursing your assets, you need to name an executor who will implement your wishes and terms of your last will. This is an important provision in Pennsylvania’s law for last wills as the executor is responsible for distributing all the property that you will leave behind.

The executor should also be responsible for filing estate tax returns and completing all necessary legal documents for the estate. This can be any individual or party, including the beneficiaries themselves. Any person over 18 years of age and of sound mind can act as an executor under Pennsylvania law.

Draft the last will and testament

After listing all the information above, you can then draft a Pennsylvania last will and testament. It is accepted by the state if it is handwritten or typed and signed by the testator. However, it is recommended to get it notarized and witnessed (if applicable).

Related: Free Pennsylvania Power Of Attorney Forms (10 Types)

Free Template/Form

Several online templates are available to help you create a legally acceptable last will and testament. You can easily find templates on our site that specify the format, proper language, and sequence of provisions required under Pennsylvania law. These templates are customizable, reusable, and free to download. They are meant to save time and effort when creating a valid last will and testament. If you use a template, it is critical to modify it as needed before executing the document. This will ensure that you have all the information and necessary provisions.

Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament

    Can I Revoke or Change My Will? 

    Yes. Pennsylvania allows testators to revoke or change a last will. After signing, you can do so in two ways: physically destroying the will or by creating a new last will and testament. You can destroy it by tearing, burning, canceling, obliterating, or any other physical destruction. You can do this yourself or have someone else do it on your behalf and in your presence. If you revoke a Pennsylvania last will by creating a new last will, it should fulfill similar state’s requirements (20 Pa. Cons. Stat.  2505) as the previous last will and testament. Note that any provision in your will that awards your spouse gifts is subject to revocation upon divorce or marriage annulment. This is unless the last will specifically directs that divorce should not affect any of its provisions.

    You can also change your last will by writing a one and include the changes in the new document. If you wish to make changes to your last will and testament after being signed, you can also add an ancillary (or codicil), which is preferable for minor changes.

    How to Store the Last Will and Testament?

    The last will must be stored somewhere secure where it cannot be altered. It should also be reserved in a safe location where it can be easily located. You can keep the will at home or store it in a safe. This will prevent any physical damages that may occur due to fire or flood. You should aim to protect the original will, as copies are not admissible in court and may result in the same issues you were trying to prevent: a lengthy and expensive probate process. You should inform your executor how to access the document after your death. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Do I require a lawyer to make my last will and testament in Pennsylvania?

    If you are 18 or older, then depending on the complexity of your will, a lawyer can be beneficial for various services such as drafting wills and handling the probate process. However, you can be your own author unless there are unusual circumstances.

    Should my will name an executor?

    You should name an executor in your will even though it is not a requirement. This will make it easier to identify someone who is going to administer the last will and testament. If an executor is not named, the court will name someone as a  personal representative and who will be in charge of administrating the estate according to the last will.

    Can I make a digital or electronic will?

    Technically, Pennsylvania does not have rules regarding the preparation and execution of electronic wills. However, it does accept electronic wills from other states, provided they are drafted according to the laws of that specific state.

    Keep Reading