The Difference a Will Makes
A will is a writing signed at the end by a person (at least 18 years of age and of sound mind) that directs the distribution of property at death. The will may also appoint guardians of the estates of minors who receive property under the will. 

Everyone Should Have a Will
  • Young married persons: For disposing of their property and to appoint proper persons as the guardians of the persons and estates of their minor children
  • The middle aged: For providing a plan of distribution to dependents by benefiting those with the greatest need and conserving their property for their spouse and/or children
  • The elderly: For making distributions which benefit spouse, children, grandchildren, and charities

In the Event of No Will
Pennsylvania law applies to the appointment of personal representative and the distribution of property by designating the heirs and their share of the decedent's estate. Guardians of the person and the property of minors must be appointed by the Orphans' Court.

Updating Your Will
The disposition of one's property is necessarily determined by many personal factors including family, personal relationships, and interests in charities. A will should be changed when those relationships, including by divorce and death, change. Changes to a will may be made either by a completely revised will or by a codicil conforming to the requirements for a valid will.

Function of the Register Of Wills
The register of wills is an elected official. One of the register's functions is to determine whether a document offered for probate should be received as the last will of the decedent. Where a will does not name an executor, the register determines who shall administer the estate of the deceased.

Wills are frequently challenged on the grounds of forgery, lack of mental capacity of the testator, or undue influence. The register hears testimony with regard to any challenge and makes a decision accepting or rejecting the document offered.

Where there is no will, the register grants letters of administration, usually to the next of kin. Where there is a dispute among the heirs as to who would serve as administrator, the register will conduct a hearing and resolve the dispute.

A Special Note
This information has been issued to inform and not to advise. It is based on Pennsylvania law. The statements are general, and individual facts in a given case may alter their application or involve other laws not referred to here.