As with many things in life a small mistake can lead to big consequences.
What Happens If Your Will is Not Executed Properly?
A last will and testament is a powerful document and an important part of any estate plan that lets you control what happens to all of your possessions, including real estate and securities after you are gone. A will as part of an overall plan can save you and your family money, time, and headaches and can be created with only a small and reasonable time commitment. But, beware that an improperly created or executed will can take all that away leaving it up to the state or a judge to decide what will happen next.
In Pennsylvania, wills can be handwritten, they can be done online, and an attorney with or without estate planning or administration experience can draft them. They can be prepared as part of an overall estate plan to protect your estate from excessive probate fees, and inheritance or estate taxes. Likewise when properly prepared they can protect an heir from lawsuits and divorce or protect a child or grandchild with special needs. This type of planning is typically done with a lawyer who focuses his whole practice in the area of estate planning.
It is important to understand that there is a set of laws governing wills and trusts in each state and a will must comply and work under these often confusing and ever changing rules and guidelines. Make sure you know what you are paying for. Some very simple estate planning can be done effectively by an attorney with basic experience and may even be done cheaper online. A more complex estate plan is probably well worth a trip to an experienced estate planning and estate administration attorney.
For example, if you are a professional, a corporation, executive, own a family business, real estate and or a vacation home then the added expense of using a sophisticated estate plan can save your heirs many times over the cost of that plan.
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In a recent Pennsylvania case the court saved a will from being invalid by a small mistake. In the Bosley Estate the testator signed his will at the end in the presence of two attesting witnesses, with notarization. But the attestation clause said the witnesses had seen testator’s initials written by him on the margin of each of the first four pages of the will. The testator had in fact not initialed the first four pages of his will. But under Pennsylvania law a clause that follows after the testator’s signature is not valid so even though it stated a mistake in the will that could lead to a big consequence of voiding the will the court chose to allow the will by invalidating the clause. Bosley Estate (O.C. Div. York), 1 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 185.
Do you know what Pennsylvania requires for a will to be valid?
Does your will contain a simple mistake that could lead it to be invalid?
Do you want to leave your will open to the courts interpretation or do you want your will to implement your directions and interpretations?
The Estate of Bosley case offers us an insight into a simple mistake that could have led to disastrous consequences to help us remember that a last will and testament however simple it may be needs to comply with Pennsylvania law and can more easily than you think be invalidated once you are gone.
Do your homework before you write a will or seek legal advice to make sure this important document stands the test of time.