Each state has intestacy laws, which determine what happens to your property should you die without a will. In Pennsylvania, who gets your property is determined by which relatives survive you. For instance, if you are survived by only your spouse, the surviving spouse takes the entire estate; however, the surviving spouse’s share will be limited if the deceased has surviving parents or children. If the deceased is survived by parents and/or children, the surviving spouse is only entitled to the first $30,000 of the estate plus one-half of any estate in excess of the $30,000. This calculation assumes that any children of the deceased are also the children of the surviving spouse. If there are children that are not the children of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse is only entitled to half of the estate and is not entitled to the first $30,000. Should a person die with no surviving spouse, no children and no surviving parents, then the issues of the deceased’s parents will receive the property i.e. the deceased’s brothers/sisters and/or nieces/nephews.
While PA tries to predict how individuals would want their property distributed in the event of their passing, the statutes do not necessarily take into consideration the reality of our everyday lives. Often times, couples live together without marrying. Yet, under the intestacy statutes, your partner would be left with nothing in the absence of a validly executed will. Also, people with adult children may be primarily concerned with taking care of their surviving spouses as they believe that their children are capable of taking care of themselves. Without a will, your surviving spouse is limited in what he/she will receive. Additionally, the statutes do not take into consideration that many times there are conflicts in a family, and in some instances, may permit for a family member who the deceased has essentially written off in life to collect upon his/her death.
In conclusion, although you can take comfort in the fact that Pennsylvania has a default statute out there that will see to it that your immediate family will receive your property in the event of your death, if you want to see to it that matters are handled in a particular fashion and that only the individuals you designate are provided for upon your death, then it is advisable to have a valid will prepared which clearly expresses your desires so that the state knows your wishes and can see to it that they are realized. For more information, please visit the Law Office of Suzanne Szymoniak.