Pennsylvania residents might be surprised to learn that only about 40 percent of American adults have a will or other estate planning documents in place. The percentage is even lower for people who have dependent children, according to an online survey.
When making estate plans, Pennsylvania residents might want to consider naming additional beneficiaries in the event that their first choice dies at the same time or shortly after they do. Sometimes it's impossible to determine who died first. A simultaneous death clause appoints one person in a couple or others whose estates are entwined to be named as the one who died first if this is the case. Couples might also want to consider changing property owned to "tenants in common" instead of "joint tenancy with rights of survivorship" to clarify how property is passed on if both individuals die at the same time.
Many Pennsylvania residents were shocked and saddened when media outlets reported in April 2016 that Prince had died at the age of 57. The iconic performer was renowned for both his groundbreaking music and business acumen, so it came as a surprise to many when it was revealed that he had failed to write a will or put any kind of estate plan into place. This oversight likely means that millions of dollars will go to attorneys, bankers and the U.S. government instead of to his heirs or charitable endeavors.
Life in a high-tech age can be complicated. It can have ramifications that may not pop up until after a person's death. Savvy Pennsylvania residents know it's important to provide their heirs or attorney with access to online accounts. With so much personal business being conducted through the Internet, having access to online accounts can be crucial to settling an estate.
Estate planning may be important for all adults in Pennsylvania; however, it can be even more vital for people in blended families. Such estate holders may want to protect both children from a previous marriage, a current spouse and any children from a new relationship. Beneficiary designations may be out of date and list a former spouse or only include children from the previous relationship. If instructions in a will conflict with beneficiary designations, the beneficiary designation is generally considered to override the will.
Pennsylvania residents who own a large piece of land like a farm or a ranch may want to think carefully about how to transfer the land in their estate plan. If they have several children and grandchildren, they may be tempted to draft a simple will that leaves the property to all of those heirs. However, simply leaving land to several people at once can cause complicated disputes in the future.
Many Pennsylvania residents might be among the 60 percent of Americans that a 2011 survey found had no will. Some people may think they do not need one because they are too young, but death can occur unexpectedly at any age. Not having a will means that state intestacy law will govern how a person's assets are distributed, and that may not reflect the decedent's wishes. A will can also be used to leave money for charitable organizations.
Often when a person passes away, his or her relatives may disagree about the estate plan, especially if they were unaware about provisions outlined in the will or trust. However, there are several simple things testators can do before they die that can help to deter family feuding regarding their will.
Many Pennsylvania residents draft a last will and testament because they have very clear wishes about how they would like their estates to be distributed after they pass away. Financial assets like life insurance policies and retirement plans often account for a significant portion of their estates, but they are generally dealt with according to the provisions of the documents themselves rather than the terms of a will when their owners die.
Making estate planning decisions early is generally a wise choice as long as people review these documents periodically throughout the years to see if any changes are needed. Those with blended families in Pennsylvania should also consider how to divide an estate so that each spouse's heirs receive what is meant for them. This involves addressing smaller possessions as well as big assets like houses and bank accounts.