Wills help Pennsylvania residents dictate who gets their belongings when they die, appoint executors and name guardians for their children. However, the testator -- the person creating the will -- must strictly comply with Pennsylvania laws, or he risks having the will invalidated and his belongings passed through the state laws of intestacy, the rules that dictate how belongings are dispersed when a person does not have a will.
A person must be at least 18 and be of sound mind to make a valid will in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania does not accept noncupative, or verbal, wills. Instead, all wills must be in writing.
The testator must sign the will. If the testator signs his own name, Pennsylvania law does not require witnesses to the will.
The signature must appear at the end of the will. However, if there is any text after the testator's signature, this additional information will not invalidate the text that came before the signature.
The testator may elect to sign with a mark. However, if he does, there must be two witnesses. The witnesses must see the testator sign the will with the mark.
If the testator is not able to make a mark or sign his name, he can direct another person to do this for him. However, there must be two witnesses who observe this.
Proving the Will
When the will is submitted for probate, a witness must testify that the document that is being offered to the court is the testator's will. This may require a witness familiar with the testator's signature to swear under oath that the signature belongs to the testator.
Another way that witnesses can attest to the validity of the signature is by completing a self-proving affidavit. This legal document has the same power as their live testimony and may be prepared at the time the will was signed and witnessed or after the testator's death.
Revoking a Will
A person may create another will or codicil to revoke a previous will. Alternatively, he can create another document that states that it is his intent to revoke the previous will. The testator can also destroy, tear, burn or obliterate the will with the intent to revoke the will. Alternatively, the testator can direct another person to take this act against the will, but there must be two witnesses to the act.
Change in Circumstance
Some life changes cause a will to be automatically modified unless the will specifies otherwise. This includes if the testator is divorced or in the process of getting divorced at the time of death, so long as he has proven grounds for divorce. It also includes if the testator gets married after making a will, has a child or adopts a child. In these cases, the heir receives the share of the estate she would have been entitled to had the testator died without a will.