When drafting a will by yourself, without the assistance of a probate or estate management attorney, there are 3 simple but often overlooked factors that you should take into consideration:
  • Witnesses;
  • selecting an executor; and
  • how toleave specific items to specific heirs.
When selecting someone to act as a witness to your will, you're seeking a "disinterested witness," so select an individual who is not a beneficiary. This prevents any conflicts of interest. Further, if your estate planning lawyer drafts your will, he or she can't be your witness. Pennsylvania requires 2 competent witnesses, but other states may require fewer or more.

As for selecting an executor, you can hypothetically name anyone you wish, provided that it's an adult who is legally competent and capable of performing the prescribed duties. Your will empowers your executor to pay your bills, taxes, and creditors, so it's important that you select a diligent and honest executor who will handle your affairs with propriety and a sense of commitment.

You may select your spouse or a trusted friend or relative, but if your estate is of a certain size, you may wish to name an attorney or someone with a financial and legal background. Furthermore, you can select joint executors to manage your estate, such as your spouse and your attorney.

Finally, in order to leave specific items to specific beneficiaries, create a separate document known as a letter of instruction. This is a more informal document in which you explain to the executor which items go to whom. This letter can also include specific instructions, such as account numbers and passwords that may not be covered by the will itself.

Drafting a Will with a Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorney

Our estate planning and probate attorney team is prepared to answer your questions about your estate plan, whether you need it reviewed, modified, or drafted for the very first time. Call our offices to see what an attorney from the law offices of Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees can do for you – 1-610-933-8069.
David M. Frees, III
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Attorney, Speaker and Author