Wills & Estates Representation
Informative, Meticulous, and Detailed Estate Planning in York, Pennsylvania and Surrounding Areas
Wills and estates collectively refers to an area of law that assists individuals with planning for the future, whether it’s how assets will be disbursed following their death or how doctors are to administer medical care should they become incapacitated. Estate planning, though legal in foundation, has become an art form only to be performed by the most skilled attorneys. Wills and estates covers estate planning and devising both wills and living wills. Coover & Scheidemann is comprised of a team of highly skilled, talented, and competent wills and estates attorneys serving Carlisle, Chambersburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lemoyne, and York. We provide free initial consultations to prospective clients to help them evaluate the viability of estate planning.
The Probate Process in Pennsylvania
Wills and estates law is often referred to as probate. Probate is the court legal process that begins when an individual passes away. Most individuals pass away with some form of property or debt. Property can be real estate, furniture, bank accounts, or even life insurance proceeds. The probate process will determine what to do with these assets, how to pay off any outstanding debt (if at all), and to whom leftover assets should go.
If you pass away without proper estate planning and a will, your estate will pass through intestate succession, meaning your assets will be distributed to family members and spouses automatically according to state laws. If you have property you want to protect from creditors or have a unique vision regarding who should inherit which pieces of property, estate planning is essential.
Drafting Wills and Living Wills in Pennsylvania
A last will and testament is a legally binding document drafted and signed by you that outlines your plans for how your assets will be distributed following your death, as well as any other special instructions such as who should care for your dog.
In order to be valid, Pennsylvania probate law requires that a will be:
- Signed by the testator
- Witnessed by at least two witnesses
- Signed by these witnesses
Notarization is not required nor do you need to name an executor, though this is recommended to facilitate a faster probate process. Otherwise, the judge will appoint someone to distribute your assets according to your will on your behalf.
A living will, on the other hand, applies to your medical care and finances while you are still alive but unable to make these important decisions on your own. When you are mentally incompetent due to dementia or are physically incapacitated due to an accident, you cannot and should not be responsible for making difficult decisions regarding treatment or how to pay bills. A living will dictates exactly what treatment you accept or deny, may appoint someone to manage your finances or control your medical records, and may even appoint someone to make medical decisions for you. Similarly to a will, you should sign it in the presence of two witnesses.
Protecting Assets and Property
Estate planning generally goes hand-in-hand with drafting a will. When you are ready to devise a will or living will, you need to consider how to divide and distribute your assets. You also need to contemplate the best way to format these assets and whether they need to be protected or secured. For instance, you may place money in a trust for the benefit of a child in order to prevent the child from frivolously spending a lump sum of cash and to protect the money from hungry creditors.
Estate planning can also help you reformat your business to ensure it can survive in your family’s name following your death, keep jointly owned real estate in the family, and protect seizure of property from creditors due to unpaid bills. Wills and estates lawyers can also advise you on how estate planning can affect Medicare/Medicaid eligibility.
Pennsylvania Wills & Estates Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a template I found online for a will?
Every individual estate is unique. No two families, collections of assets, outstanding debts, or goals are identical. A one-size-fits-all will may be incapable of properly securing your assets.
Contact Coover & Scheidemann for Assistance with Preparing for the Future
If you are located in Central Pennsylvania and need legal assistance with estate planning or drafting a will, Coover & Scheidemann is eager to help teach you the probate process. Our attorneys provide individualized and close personal attention to each case and will provide you with customized advice regarding how to protect your estate through special planning or a will. Call Coover & Scheidemann toll free at (717) 761-1274 to schedule a free initial estate planning conference.