Estate planning requires a thorough review of your personal resources and debts. You need to put together legal documents that discuss what will happen to your property when you die and who will support your vulnerable family members, like your children.
Many people assume that they don’t need an estate plan or will because Pennsylvania state law already has rules in place related to the distribution of property when someone dies. Is it truly necessary to have your own will?
Intestate succession laws are generic
The state laws intended to guide the descent of your property if you die without a will are intentionally broad to apply to as many circumstances as possible. It is common for people to feel like intestate succession rules don’t adequately address their family circumstances and to deviate from these standards substantially in their wills.
If you die without a will, your spouse has the strongest rights of inheritance, although their exact share of your estate will depend on whether you have children and if they are also a parent to those children or only a stepparent.
People who die without spouses or children will typically leave property for their parents or siblings. Pennsylvania state law provides the strongest rights for someone’s closest family members. Property may eventually revert to state ownership if no family members claim the assets from someone’s estate.
Why succession laws aren’t enough to protect you
Those who don’t have a close relationship with their biological families and those who have unusual circumstances, like a long-term relationship with someone they don’t intend to marry are among those who would benefit from creating a will despite intestate succession laws.
Additionally, intestate succession laws do nothing to protect your legacy from creditor claims and other issues that could diminish what you passed to others after your death. If you have children or others who depend on you, failing to plan ahead of time could leave them in state custody or worse. Your will lets you name a guardian for your dependents.
Taking the time to think about what you will leave behind when you die and who you want to benefit from your estate can help you create effective estate planning documents, including a will.