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Do you need people to witness you signing your will?

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2022 | Estate Planning |

When you create a will, you take control over your property after your death. You also help provide for those who depend on you. Your will could name someone to serve as a caregiver for your children or to assume ownership of your beloved cats.

Historically, people have created wills with the assistance of an attorney. However, there are always those looking for a way to avoid the expense involved in securing formal legal representation. In recent years, people have started creating electronic wills or downloading documents from the internet and filling them in at home with their own information.

Some of these testators may have made a mistake as the documents they drafted may not meet the necessary criteria of a valid will under Pennsylvania law. Specifically, they may not have the necessary witnesses for the will to hold up in probate court.

Pennsylvania requires two witnesses

There are numerous requirements imposed on testators in Pennsylvania. They typically need to be over the age of 18 and have the legal capacity to sign a binding document on their own behalf. The will needs to conform with Pennsylvania laws.

The individual drafting the document will also need to sign it in the presence of two adult witnesses. The ideal standard is to utilize witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the estate. Both witnesses should be adults and also of sound mind at the time of the document signing.

In theory, if there are later any questions about the testamentary capacity of the testator or about their intention in those documents, the witnesses could play a key role in the probate litigation that results. Those who draft documents that they sign without witnesses present may not end up having control over what happens with their property when they die.

There are other risks in making your own will

Most adults in Pennsylvania recognize the importance of having professional help with their estate plans. If your documents deviate from state standards or contradict state law, they may be more likely to face a challenge in probate court and to get thrown out, meaning you won’t control what happens with your property when you die.

Understanding the rules that apply to wills and Pennsylvania will make estate planning a simpler process.