Sure you can. But whether it is valid is a different story. Asking us if you can write your own will is like asking us if you can dunk a basketball. Dunking a basketball often requires certain skills, natural abilities and, quite frankly, a lot of practice. Similarly, drafting a will requires special training and knowledge of Pennsylvania law and how those rules and regulations will affect your particular circumstances and wishes.

Estate planning gives you an opportunity to help your loved ones. If your homemade will is not legally effective, your assets will pass according to Pennsylvania intestacy laws. If your will is ambiguous or unclear, there is a much greater chance that there will be disputes among your heirs as to the meaning of the will.

If you die without a will, your assets will be disposed of according to state law. Such distributions may be contrary to your intent. Moreover, allowing the law to determine the distribution of one’s assets is generally an uneconomical method of distributing an estate and very often results in an inequitable distribution of assts.

An estate plan drafted by one of our attorneys covers everything you own or have an interest in, as well as consideration of assets you may receive in the future through inheritance or increased income. We consider, among other things, your residence, your car, your IRA’s, your retirement plans, business interests, vacation homes and your household items when reviewing what type of estate plan is right for you.

Probate is the legal term for the process of filing a will with a county’s Register of Wills. Once a will is filed, the Register of Wills appoints an individual (the “executor,” “executrix,” or “personal representative”) to administer the estate. The process of administering an estate involves making sure that all property of the decedent is properly disposed of pursuant to the terms of the will.   Debtors are notified of the death and debts of the decedent are paid to the extent that the decedent left money to pay them. Finally, all taxes are paid, and the estate is closed.

Probate is not necessary in all instances. Our legal team can guide you through the process and determine whether probate is the proper way to handle your loved one’s estate.

If an individual dies without a will, an estate can still be raised with the Register of Wills.   This is the process called “administration” of a decedent’s estate. Our legal team can assist you even if your loved one died without a will.

There are several ways one can reduce estate taxes. We are happy to discuss these methods in detail with you. Lifetime gifts can be an effective way to reduce estate taxes. Also an irrevocable trust, which removes property from one’s estate, can be an effective way to reduce estate taxes. Also, taking affirmative steps to exclude life insurance proceeds from one’s estate may avoid estate tax on those benefits.