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Pennsylvania Wills Laws

Executing a valid will is perhaps the most important step in the estate planning process. A will allows a testator (the person writing the will) to determine how his or her property should be distributed upon death. If someone does not have a will when he or she passes away (referred to as “dying intestate”), or a court finds that the will is invalid, the state will distribute property according to intestacy laws. These laws are essentially predetermined inheritance guidelines which usually work their way down your family tree, with property going to your closest relatives first. Therefore, having a valid will can mean the difference between your estate going to your close friend as you had always wanted, or everything going to a long-lost relative you’ve never even met.

Each state has its own laws detailing the legal requirements for making a valid will. In Pennsylvania, the law requires that the testator be at least 18 years old and of sound mind (mentally competent). In addition, the testator must declare that the will is his or hers in front of two witnesses -- and these witnesses must then sign the will in front of the testator. Note that Pennsylvania does not recognize oral wills or holographic wills (wills written entirely in the testator’s handwriting -- but not signed by witnesses).

The basics of Pennsylvania's wills laws are highlighted in the box below. See FindLaw's Wills section for additional resources.

Code Section

Tit. 20 §2501, et seq.

Age of Testator

18 years or older and of sound mind

Number of Witnesses

Two witnesses signing will in presence of testator; testator must declare instrument to be his will in presence of witnesses.

Nuncupative (Oral Wills)

Not valid

Holographic Wills

Not recognized

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

For more information on Pennsylvania’s wills laws, click on the links provided below linking to related resources. You can also learn more about wills, trusts, and the probate process, in general, by referring to FindLaw’s section on estate planning. Finally, to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, you may want to consider having an estate planning lawyer draft your will.

Pennsylvania Wills Laws: Related Resources

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