Estate Planning involves a combination of various legal instruments, such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, as well as Lifetime Transfers, Gifts, and Beneficiary Designations.
Creating a Will in Pittsburgh
At its simplest, your will is a document that says what to do with all your assets when you pass. It is your last instructions to those that you leave behind. And it’s a way for you to make a lasting mark by providing stability and guidance for your family. The will can help provide closure for your grieving loved ones. It can also provide comfort and support to your confused spouse or children as they try to settle your affairs.
Your will is your way for you to be there for your family and loved ones one last time. And it’s your way to give yourself piece of mind to know you have provided for them even after you have gone.
For your will to be valid in Pennsylvania, it must be in writing. Oral wills are not allowed, so don’t rely on the fact you once told your sister, co-worker, child, or spouse what you wanted to have happen to your assets after you passed. The will can be a single document, or it can be several documents, including amendments to the will or a memorandum for the disposition of tangible personal property.
In order to be valid, your will must also do at least one of three things. It must either
(1) dispose of your property,
(2) appoint an executor for your estate, or
(3) nominate a testamentary guardian for your children.
Thus, a document that simply says “Go Steelers!” is not a valid will.
Your will must also express “testamentary intent”. Basically this means that when you sign your will, you must do so with the understanding that it is your will; that it is the document that contains your intention on how to distribute your assets after your death.
Suppose a married couple has been talking about getting a will and have been bouncing ideas back on forth on what to do with their assets. One day the husband sends wife an email with his thoughts on the will. “I want Jimmy to get my ’65 GTO and Johnny to get the boat.” She replies, saying “I want to leave some money to St. Jude’s because their work is so important.” While in these emails the husband and wife say what they want to have happen to their assets when they pass, these emails are not their wills because, for one reason, they lack testamentary intent. Neither intended the email to actually be their will.
It is important to note that a will cannot be made up of merely negative words. What does this mean? Suppose a widow has two daughters, Jennifer, whom she loves dearly and wants to leave all her possessions to, and Mary, who at the age of 17 ran away from home and hasn’t been heard from since. If the widow’s will merely reads “My daughter Mary gets nothing from my estate”, it is invalid. Although these words might effectively dispose of the widow’s property as she wishes, they do nothing affirmative. Instead, for the widow to have a valid will that leaves everything to her faithful daughter Jennifer, it must read “My daughter Jennifer gets all of my property after my death”.
Michael J. Girardi
Estate Administration is a process that involves a wide range of duties on behalf of the Executor or Administrator. These responsibilities include collecting, valuing, and protecting the estate’s assets, making payments to creditors and receiving collections from debtors, the payment of various taxes, and the distribution of the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
To learn more about Estate Administration, check out the resources below, or contact us to schedule a free consultation.