Should I hire estate planning attorneys to prepare my will?
In Pennsylvania, having your last will and testament prepared by experienced attorneys may be the most reasonable investment into your peace of mind. While the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code outlines a plan for how your property should pass when you die without a will, the intestacy statute is silent on a number of critical considerations, including who may serve as guardian of your minor children.
The seasoned attorneys at Gaydos, Gaydos & Associates, P.C. recognize the most common pitfalls in estate planning and preparation, and are able to work with you to make certain that your loved ones are provided for according to your own terms.
Can I prepare my own will?
With respect to last wills, longstanding Pennsylvania law only requires that an instrument be written and signed by the decedent at its end, evidencing a reasonably certain declaration of intent. Although other important considerations exist (e.g. whether the instrument should be “self-proving” with the affidavits of two witnesses), testamentary intent is indispensable and the format is largely immaterial. For example, a valid will may be created on loose leaf paper so long as it shows testamentary intent and is signed at the end.
While the requirements for creating a valid will are minimal, the decision to prepare your own estate planning documents is often perilous. The Pennsylvania Superior Court, in a memorandum decision, recently addressed whether a handwritten document, signed and dated by the decedent, should have been admitted to probate. The document, which referred to itself as a will, indicated that it was to supersede all previous wills, and even contained specific bequests for friends and family.
In determining whether the document had the requisite testamentary intent, the trial court looked at ambiguities in the document itself, including omissions and potentially missing pages. Even though the decedent had carefully stated her intention to dispose of certain property and revoke prior wills, the court found that the document was more likely handwritten preparatory notes. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s findings.
While you certainly can prepare your own will it does not mean that you should. Apart from simply having an instrument that is valid for probate purposes, our attorneys can assist you in finding a global solution that addresses your unique needs and concerns. Contact us at (412) 678-7900 to discuss your options and schedule a consultation.
 In re Estate of Citino, No. 3356 EDA 2018 (Aug. 27, 2019).