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Why Do Pennsylvanians Need a Will?

Don’t die without a Will: Secure your assets for your intended beneficiaries

The April 2016 death of 57-year-old iconic musician Prince was tragic and unexpected. Fans around the world were devastated.  An unexpected death can bring more grief upon a family when the loved one leaves behind no will or instructions regarding their assets and debts.

Prince did not have a will, as reported by Forbes.  His sister, Tyka Nelson, asked the court to be appointed Administrator of the estate.  If appointed, Ms. Nelson will be responsible for ensuring all assets are distributed to eligible heirs and any taxes are paid.

According to Minnesota law, Ms. Nelson would be the first person in line to receive benefits from her brother’s estate.  When a person dies without a will and there is no spouse, the primary beneficiaries would be the descendants-children, grandchildren, and further down the line.  When there is no spouse or children, the decedent’s parents would be the next beneficiaries.  Siblings and half siblings are next in line when there the parents are not living.

The law in Pennsylvania is somewhat similar.  When a person in Pennsylvania dies without a will, the estate is not just passed to the next of kin, but divided among living relatives-even when there is a spouse.  According to NOLO, If the decedent has:

  • A spouse but no children or descendants or living parents: The spouse inherits everything
  • A spouse and children from said spouse: The spouse inherits the first $30,000 of intestate property along with half of the balance and the children inherit everything else.
  • A spouse and a child or children from another party; Spouse inherits half of estate property, and children inherit everything else.
  • A spouse and parents: The spouse inherits the first $30,000 of intestate property along with half of the balance and parents inherit what is left else.
  • Children and no spouse: Children inherit the entire estate
  • Parents but no spouse or children: Parents are entitled to everything
  • Siblings and no spouse, parents or children: Siblings are entitled to the entire estate.

During a recent segment of the Today show, author and financial expert, Tim Maurer suggested it was especially important to have a will if you have children. In addition to ensuring that children receiving the monetary and physical assets of the estate, parents can also use the will to appoint a guardian to care for children in the event of the parent’s untimely death, and a trustee to care for the child’s inheritance until they reach the age of majority.

If a Pennsylvania resident dies without a will, the state will determine what happens to that person’s money, children, and estate assets, according to Legal-Lookout.

Maurer suggested that individuals without a will who want to protect their family’s future contact an estate planning lawyer.

Pennsylvania estate planning lawyers can help with wills, trusts, and the management of other aspects of the estate including assets, debts, liabilities and taxes.  Careful estate planning can help protect families from overzealous tax collectors.

The future is always uncertain.  But you have the power to protect your family’s financial future in the event of an unforeseen tragedy.  Contact a Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer to ensure your wishes are carried out and your beneficiaries receiving assets as intended.

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