Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament Law

Wills and Estates – Last Will and Testament Law – Pennsylvania

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of wills in Pennsylvania, but does provide basic and other information.  This discussion does not include hand written wills.

Who may make a will:  Any person 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind may make a will. § 2501.

Form and execution of a will:  Every will shall be in writing and shall be signed by the testator at the end thereof, subject to the following rules and exceptions:

1.Words following signature.-The presence of any writing after the signature to a will, whether written before or after its execution, shall not invalidate that which precedes the signature.

2.Signature by mark.-If the testator is unable to sign his name for any reason, a will to which he makes his mark and to which his name is subscribed before or after he makes his mark shall be as valid as though he had signed his name thereto: Provided, That he makes his mark in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to the will in his presence.

3.Signature by another.-If the testator is unable to sign his name or to make his mark for any reason, a will to which his name is subscribed in his presence and by his express direction shall be as valid as though he had signed his name thereto: Provided, That he declares the instrument to be his will in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to it in his presence.§ 2502.

Validity of execution: A will is validly executed if executed in compliance with section 2502 (relating to form and execution of a will), or in compliance with the law of the jurisdiction where the testator was domiciled at the time of the execution of the will or at the time of his death.§ 2504.1.

Revocation of a will:  No will or codicil in writing, or any part thereof, can be revoked or altered otherwise than:

1.Will or codicil. By some other will or codicil in writing;
2.Other writing. By some other writing declaring the same, executed and proved in the manner required of wills; or
3.Act to the document. By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revocation, by the testator himself or by another person in his presence and by his express direction. If such act is done by any person other than the testator, the direction of the testator must be proved by the oaths or affirmations of two competent witnesses. § 2505.

Revival of revoked or invalid will

If, after the making of any will, the testator shall execute a later will which expressly or by necessary implication revokes the earlier will, the revocation of the later will shall not revive the earlier will, unless the revocation is in writing and declares the intention of the testator to revive the earlier will, or unless, after such revocation, the earlier will shall be reexecuted. Oral republication of itself shall be ineffective to revive a will. § 2506.

Modification by circumstances:  Wills shall be modified upon the occurrence of any of the following circumstances among others:

1.[Repealed].
2. Divorce.-If the testator is divorced from the bonds of matrimony after making a will, any provision in the will in favor of or relating to his spouse so divorced shall thereby become ineffective for all purposes unless it appears from the will that the provision was intended to survive the divorce.

3.Marriage.-If the testator marries after making a will, the surviving spouse shall receive the share of the estate to which he would have been entitled had the testator died intestate, unless the will shall give him a greater share or unless it appears from the will that the will was made in contemplation of marriage to the surviving spouse.

(4) Birth or adoption.- If the testator fails to provide in his will for his child born or adopted after making his will, unless it appears from the will that the failure was intentional, such child shall receive out of the testator’s property not passing to a surviving spouse, such share as he would have received if the testator had died unmarried and intestate owning only that portion of his estate not passing to a surviving spouse.

(5) Slaying.- Any person who participates either as a principal or as an accessory before the fact in the willful and unlawful killing of any person shall not in any way acquire property or receive any benefits as the result of the willful and unlawful killing but such property or benefits shall be distributed as provided by Chapter 881 (relating to slayers).§ 2507.

Devise or bequest to trust: A devise or bequest in a will may be made to the trustee of a trust, including any unfunded trust, established in writing by the testator or any other person before, concurrently with or after the execution of the will. Such devise or bequest shall not be invalid because the trust is amendable or revocable, or both, or because the trust was amended after execution of the will. Unless the will provides otherwise, the property so devised or bequeathed shall not be deemed held under a testamentary trust of the testator but shall become and be a part of the principal of the trust to which it is given to be administered and disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the instrument establishing that trust and any amendment thereof. An entire revocation of the trust prior to the testator’s death shall invalidate the devise or bequest unless the will directs otherwise. § 2515.

Penalty clause for contest: A provision in a will or trust purporting to penalize an interested person for contesting the will or trust or instituting other proceedings relating to the estate or trust is unenforceable if probable cause exists for instituting proceedings. § 2521.


Inside Pennsylvania Last Will and Testament Law