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Pennsylvania Probate Law: The Truth About “The Reading of the Will”

Interesting Estate and Probate Facts

Non-Traditional Estate Planning

Family Estate Planning Conversation

Time and again, on television shows and in movies, scenes occur in which a person has died and his or her last will and testament is “read” to family members. In considering these entertainments, one could easily include that the so-called reading of the will is a commonplace or even required occurrence. A person might think that Pennsylvania probate law requires a reading of a will. In fact, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country, a reading of a will rarely takes place in the manner presented on television or in a movie.

Pennsylvania Probate Law and the Reading of a Will

There is no provision in Pennsylvania probate law requiring a will to be read aloud to family members of a person who died. There are isolated instances in which a reading of a will may actually occur in Pennsylvania. But, in the final analysis, and as previously mentioned, this is not something that frequently happens.

There is nothing that prohibits the reading of a will to family members. When it happens, it usually is in a Pennsylvania probate lawyer’s office.

Pennsylvania Probate Law and the Public Record

When a will is probated, that will becomes a public record. A probated will is one that is submitted to the court to allow a judge the ability to ensure that the provisions of that will are carried out – to ensure that the bequests and directives made by the writer of the will are carried out.

Because the will is public record, literally anyone can access the document and read it. Certainly, family members have the ability to read and review a will once it is submitted to the probate process in court. In some cases, a Pennsylvania probate lawyer will provide family members and others copies of a last will and testament.

Pennsylvania Probate Lawyer

A person involved in an estate matter, including one involving reviewing a last will and testament, is best served engaging the services of an experienced Pennsylvania probate lawyer. This type of attorney will schedule a no obligation, no cost initial consultation to discuss a particular legal mater.

There is a long overused cliché: The only thing certain and life is death and taxes. When it comes to death and dying, there are some interesting estate and probate facts worth pondering.

The Origin of “Last Will and Testament”

One of the more interesting estate and probate facts is the origin of the term “last will and testament.” Historically, will was utilized to distribute real estate when a person died. Testament was the term associated with distributing personal property after death.

Estate and Probate Facts: Longest Will Probated

The longest will ever probated by a court was in the United Kingdom. The estate itself was rather small, having a value of about $100,000. The will ran 1,066 pages and almost 96,000 words.

Estate and Probate Facts: Shortest Wills in Modern Times

There are two wills tied for the shortest in modern times, one written in India, the other in Germany. One will read: “All to wife.” The other will read: “All to son.”

The Actor and the Skull

An actor named Del Close includes a provision in his will that donated his skull to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. His intention was to play Yorick in the Shakespeare play Hamlet after his death. (Yorick appears only as a skull in the iconic play.) In the end, no one would agree to remove the head from the dead actor’s body and the bequest remained unfulfilled.

The Oldest Will in History

The oldest known will in history dates back to 2548 B.C. in Egypt. A man named Uah left all of his property to his wife Teta.

Living Wills – Something Relatively New

Although wills have been around for centuries, living wills are of fairly recent origin. The living will was first permitted in the United States in the state of California in 1976.

Estate and Probate Facts: Howard Hughes

One of the wealthiest – and arguably most unusual – Americans in recent history died without a will. The lack of a will caused considerable chaos in the aftermath of the eccentric billionaire’s passing.

Retain an Estate Attorney

Perhaps the most important estate and probate fact is the need to retain a qualified, experienced estate and probate attorney. Proactive estate planning is the best course to take to ensure a person’s wishes are carried out at the time of death.

If you are in a non-traditional relationship, estate planning is a must. Non-traditional estate planning has become a major issue in this day and age, with so many people living in a wide range of different types of relationships. This particularly includes individuals who live together without the benefits associated with a traditional marriage.

The Reality of No Estate Planning

The stark reality of a lack of non-traditional estate planning is that when you pass, your loved one will not benefit in any way, shape or form from your estate. For example, assume that you’ve lived with your partner for years, decades even. You pass on. Despite the length of your relationship, despite the commitment to your significant other, all of your assets will pass so a family member or family members as set forth in the statutes of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Side Arrangements with Family Members are No Substitute for Non-Traditional Estate Planning

Time and time again, a person in a non-traditional relationship makes what can best be described as a side deal or side arrangement with a family member (or family members) in lieu of proper estate planning. A person requests that a family member “take care of” his or her significant partner when the individual seeking help from a relative passes away. The person asks a family member to make sure his or her relationship partner “gets my property” when death occurs. This may sound like you. And, if it does you are not alone.

The odds of a family member honoring your desires informally expressed in this manner are not guaranteed. Moreover, there are tremendous legal and tax consequences associated with this type of informal “arrangement.” In short, side arrangements with family members do not work. They simply are no substitute for bona fide non-traditional estate planning.

The Necessity of Legal Assistance

Estate planning for a person in a non-traditional relationship can be quite complex. Informal arrangements won’t work. In addition, it is crucial that the legal documents necessary to create a suitable estate plan properly are prepared. Therefore, if you are in a non-traditional relationship, you must be proactive and retain the services of a skilled estate attorney. An estate lawyer will schedule a no-cost initial consultation with you to discuss your options.

Death and money represent two subjects that most folks do not want to discuss. This reality underscores the difficulty of a family estate planning conversation – both subjects come together in one discussion.

Despite the inherent challenges of an estate planning conversation with family members, it must be done. There are four tips to consider when contemplating an estate planning conversation with the family.

Take a Proactive Approach to an Estate Planning Conversation

Do not wait until a crisis exists to engage in an estate planning conversation with family members. Rather, a proactive approach is crucial. Select and time and place in which a conversation of this nature can be undertaken without the added burden of a sick family member.

Estate Planning Conversation in a Safe Environment

Select a safe and comfortable environment for an estate planning conversation. Being able to control the environment where this discussion takes place is another reason for taking a proactive approach. “The comfort of your own home” is a turn of phrase that illustrates the type of environment in which a conversation about estate planning issues occurs.

Be Prepared

In anticipation of a family estate planning conversation, it is important for the presenting family member to be well prepared. The basic objectives of an estate plan must be outlined. Ideally, an initial consultation with a skilled, experienced estate attorney occurs before the scheduling of this family confab.

Honestly Answer Questions

As part of being prepared for an estate planning conversation question, a person must also be ready to honestly and accurately respond to questions. If questions arise for which a person lacks an answer, that fact should honestly be conveyed to the questioner.

In addition, there may be some information that appropriately should not be shared with family members. As a result, precise boundaries should be established at the outset of a family estate planning conversation.

By engaging in a candid estate planning conversation with family members, these relatives will be both empowered and have a sense of buy-in to the estate plan itself. They will be in a better position to address estate related matters at the time the presenting family member passes away. Moreover, deficiencies that might exist in an estate plan oftentimes are realized and identified through this type of communication process.