What if I die without a will?

A common misunderstanding is that if you die without a Will your assets will go to the state. Your assets will only pass to the state if you have no living relatives. Otherwise, Pennsylvania has set up rules to divide the assets of intestate estates (estates having no valid Will) among surviving relatives. Your assets will pass in accordance with Pennsylvania statutory rules for intestate succession, which designate the persons who are to inherit your assets. These rules may, however, not give assets to the people that you would have put in your Will, so it is advisable to have a valid Will to ensure that your assets are distributed to those of your choosing.

What are the current inheritance tax rates for Pennsylvania?

The current rates for Pennsylvania inheritance tax are 0% on transfer to a surviving spouse or to a parent from a child aged 21 or younger, 4.5% on transfer to direct descendants and lineal heirs, 12% on transfers to siblings, and 15% on all other transfers.

Should I give my assets away now to avoid inheritance taxes?

Giving assets away during your lifetime may cause significant taxes. You may be required to pay gift taxes. When the recipient of the asset sells the property, he or she may pay more taxes because of the low tax basis.

What if I have real estate outside of Pennsylvania?

To transfer the real estate outside of Pennsylvania to your beneficiaries, the state where the property is located requires the executor to probate an “ancillary estate”. This process costs the estate extra fees that otherwise could have been avoided if an estate plan is created allowing probate to only occur in one state, the state of your residence.

Is there a way to contest the Will?

The fact that a person, the decent, leaves a will does not guarantee that the decedent’s property will be distributed according to the terms of the will. A court generally must provide an opportunity for others to object to the will. A challenge may be brought by anyone who feels that the will is inaccurate or invalid in some way. A will contest is an action challenging the validity of the will or its terms, and is commonly governed by the state statutes or Uniform Probate Code.