Each state has its own specific requirements for a will to be legally valid. It is critical for your will to comply with such requirements as failure to do so is likely to result in your will being invalidated later on or left extremely vulnerable to will contest actions. The result of such would be that your wishes are not likely to be honored after you pass away. In the absence of a valid will, state intestacy laws dictate how property in an estate is to be distributed. Most often, this means that your property will be distributed to your closest surviving family members. In the absence of living family members, your property will pass, or “escheat,” to the state.
Requirements of a Validly Executed Will
In Pennsylvania, there are laws in place which dictate the requirements for a validly executed state. It is important to note that most states will accept the validity of a will properly executed according to the laws of another state. So, if you were to move, it is likely that your will validly executed in Pennsylvania would be recognized in your new state. Even still, if you move to a new state, reevaluating your will and estate plan, in general, can be a good idea as some of the specific provisions included in your will may not be allowable under the laws of your new state.
Pennsylvania law requires wills to be written. This means that your will must be typed or printed. Pennsylvania does not recognize holographic wills, which are handwritten and signed by the testator, as valid. Oral wills are also not valid in Pennsylvania. In addition to being in writing, Pennsylvania wills must also be signed by the person creating the will, which is most often going to be the testator. The will also needs to be signed by two witnesses who were present at the will’s execution by the creator of the will and who also witnessed each other signing the will document.
In order to be able to create a legally valid will in Pennsylvania, the testator must be at least 18 years of age or older. Additionally, the testator must be of sound mind at the time the will is created. Sound mind usually means that the testator has not been previously deemed incompetent in another legal proceeding and that he or she understands the nature of the property she owns and understands the distribution of such property as stated in the will.
While it is most often the case that the testator will sign the will during the execution process, there are certain cases where the testator cannot sign the will. In this type of situation, the testator can still execute a valid will by making his or her mark and having his or her name subscribed to said mark. It is also an option that, should the testator be unable to sign the will, the will can be signed by another. The signature of another can still mean the will is valid as long as the testator’s name is subscribed to that signature, it is made at the express direction of the testator, and the signature is made in the presence of two witnesses to the will’s execution.