Sitting down to draft a will is not something people generally enjoy. It's easier to ignore or put off for another day. The problem is, depending on your circumstances your death without a will could become a nightmare for your family. Or, everything you've earned over your lifetime could end up in the hands of someone you would never have wanted to receive anything. That's not to mention the effect it could have on your children. Taking the time to make even a simple will can save a lot of headaches later on.
Just a few potential problems when you die intestate (without a will) in PA:
1. If you're married and you have children from the marriage, the law states that your children will inherit one-third of your estate when you die if you don't have a will. Which sounds great, but let's say your house is only in your name. Your spouse doesn't get to sell the house and pocket all the proceeds because one-third of the proceeds have to be placed in trust for the children. Even if your spouse needs those funds, he or she won't have access to them because they must be held for the benefit of the children. That's a broad spectrum, and what benefits the parent usually benefits the child, so it may be possible to use the proceeds to pay mortgages and bills, but there will be a loss right off the bat in forming the trust and paying to have it administered. All because a simple document was not executed on your behalf.
2. What happens to your children if both you and your spouse die without wills? If you plan your estate, you can direct who you would like to take guardianship of your children. While that is not the controlling factor in who eventually ends up with them, it is a very important factor that the court will use when it makes that decision. Without it you may be left with family members fighting to get control over your children, or the children may end up with a relative you never would have placed them with in the first place. Again, a simple clause in a will can save tremendous heartache later on.
3. You hate your brother. With a passion. He's done things to you that can't be forgiven and every time you've tried to extend a hand in truce he's slapped it away. But you're not married and you have no children. Your parents are both deceased and they only had the two of you. Guess what: if you pass away without a will your brother gets everything you own. Which is probably the literal last thing you wanted to happen. A will would have allowed you to leave your assets to a charity, a friend, or even your brother's ex-wife. Without it the law says your brother gets it all.
4. Maybe one of your children has done nothing but steal from you and take advantage his or her whole life. You've given and given, paid incalculable amounts, bled, cried, and prayed, but to no avail. Your other children are wonderful and never ask for a thing. When you die you want them to have everything you own, and the problem child needs to be cut off to figure life out alone. Without a will all your kids share equally, including the one you didn't want to get anything.
5. You have minor children when you die but no will. Everything passes to them. In a trust. That trust needs a trustee. The only one who steps forward is your sleazy uncle who got caught stealing from the little league concession stand when he volunteered for a week. He's in charge of every penny you ever earned and should belong to your children. There are laws in place to punish him if he steals, but who's going to catch him? And what are they going to do if he can't pay the money back? You can't get blood from a stone. Picking a responsible, capable person to oversee your children's trust would have really helped them out. Hopefully there will be something left for them if they decide to go to college or start a business.
There are countless examples of the terrible things that happen to loved ones if you don't plan for their care before something happens to you. So much money is wasted after the fact as people fight, trusts and guardianships must be established, and accounts sorted out. And the only thing necessary to avoid all that was a few hours of your time. It isn't a fun thing to do, but it could have a life-altering affect on those you care about after you're gone.