In order to make a valid will under Pennsylvania law, there are two basic requirements:
- The will must be in writing;
- The will must be signed at the end by the testator.
Unlike most states, Pennsylvania does not have a witness requirement to make a valid will. The requirements to make a valid will under Pennsylvania law can be found at 20 Pa.C.S.A. §2502.
Who Can Make a Valid Will In Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, any person 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind may make a valid will. See 20 Pa.C.S.A. §2501.
To be of sound mind, the testator must know the natural objects of his bounty, understand the property that he owns, and understand what the testator desires to do with his property.
Signature Requirements For a Valid Pennsylvania Will
To be valid, Pennsylvania wills must be signed by the testator at the end of the will. The presence of any writing after the signature shall not invalidate the writing that precedes the signature.
The testator is permitted to sign the will by mark, or have someone else sign the testator’s name.
Signature By Mark
If the testator is unable to sign her name, a will to which the testator makes her mark and to which the testator’s name is subscribed before or after she makes her mark shall be as valid under Pennsylvania law as though the testator had signed her name thereto. However, the testator MUST make her mark in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to the will in the testator’s presence in order for a will signed by mark to be valid under Pennsylvania law.
Signature By Another
If the testator is unable to sign his name or make his mark for any reason, someone else can subscribe the testator’s name on the will. The testator’s name must be subscribed on the will in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s express direction in order for the will to be valid under Pennsylvania law. Two witnesses must be present, and the testator must declare the instrument to be the testator’s will in their presence. The witnesses must sign their names to the will in the testator’s presence.
Should a Pennsylvania Will Be Witnessed?
Yes. Just because there is no requirement to have witnesses when a testator signs the will in order for the will to be valid under Pennsylvania law, does not mean that witnesses should bot be present when the will is signed.
Witnesses are generally required in order for the will to be admitted to probate, to verify that the document being offered is indeed the testator’s will. If there are no witnesses, there can be unnecessary delay in probate while others are found who can verify the testator’s signature.
A Pennsylvania Will Can Be Made Self-Proving
A valid Pennsylvania will can also be made self-proving. This simply means that a notarized affidavit is signed by witnesses at the same time the will is executed by the testator. The notarized affidavit is proof that the will is the testator’s, and is placed at the end of the will.
Does a Will Have To Be Notarized In Pennsylvania?
No. There is no requirement under Pennsylvania law to notarize a will to make it valid. The notary comes into play when a self-proving affidavit is executed.
It is always a good idea to meet with a Pennsylvania probate lawyer to make sure that any will you create is valid under Pennsylvania law.