One of the great mistakes people make is not having a Will, because they assume their spouse will get everything anyway. If you don't have a Will and live in Pennsylvania, you are wrong. If you don't have a Will, and you have kids, your spouse doesn't get everything, and your kids may end up inheriting a lot of your estate. But if you draft a Will, then you don't have to worry because you can leave everything to your spouse and be comfortable that your wishes will be honored.
On the other hand, if you draft a Will and live in Pennsylvania, you can't leave nothing to your spouse. That's right - you can't disinherit your spouse, even if you have been separated for decades. A spouse in Pennsylvania, when there is no divorce, can inherit part of the other spouse's estate, no matter how you don't want that to happen.
In this podcast, Estate Planning Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Pennsylvania Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC explains that proper estate planning is crucial to being sure that when you die, the people whom you want to receive your assets actually do. Attorney Siegel and his firm have been drafting Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Healthcare Directives and other estate planning documents for individuals, couples, non-traditional couples and others for decades. Listen to Dan's advice on this short, but informative podcast.
Hello. Welcome to the latest edition of the Legal Tech Podcast sponsored by the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, serving clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Integrated Technology Services LLC, serving clients throughout the United States and throughout the world. I'm Dan Siegeland I'm here today to talk to you about a topic that we hear about from clients all the time. I don't need a will, they say. After all, I married and when I die, everything goes to my spouse anyway, so why bother? Well, the answer is real simple. You're wrong. The reality is that if you live in Pennsylvania and you are married, even if you are separated no matter what your status is, unless you are divorced, as long as you are legally married to someone else, if you die without a will, they don't automatically get everything. Let me explain. If you don't have a will, you and I, you are considered to have died intestate. Intestate means that you died without a will. That means that the state in this case we're talking about Pennsylvania residents. The state of Pennsylvania determines who gets what. If you have a will, however, the state doesn't decide who gets what. The will will determine who gets what. Now, in Pennsylvania, there's also a catch there, but it's a little bit different. So let's take a look at what happens when you die and who gets what. First, let me calm your concerns. If you have a will and you have a spouse, you can leave it all to the other spouse. That's what most of our clients do who are married and draft wills. On the other hand, however, if you don't have a will, there are a number of issues that come up. If you do not have a will and you die, your spouse, as I said, doesn't get everything. Not at all. In Pennsylvania, if you die and you're married, and if there are no children, the spouse gets everything. But if there are children, then it's different. Because if there are children and they are the children of the surviving spouse, the spouse is able to receive the first $30,000 plus one half of the balance of the entire estate. So, in other words, if you die and your spouse has children and they are your children as well, your spouse gets $30,000 and half of everything. The rest goes to your kids. If on the other hand, there are kids who aren't the kids that you had with your surviving spouse, the spouse gets half of your estate. There are other provisions like that. But the bottom line is real simple. If you die and you don't have a will, you are not going to be able to assume that your spouse gets everything unless, of course, you don't have kids. On the other hand, even if you draft a will and even if you draft A will and are married and don't want your spouse to get anything, that's not going to happen either. Because if you are married and do not have in your will a provision for your spouse, then you have a problem because the spouse always has the right of election. So even if you give your spouse nothing, you decide you want to give it all to some cult or to your children or to a friend or some other group, your spouse always has the right to elect against the will. And despite whatever the will says, your spouse may take one third of all of your real estate and everything else you own. So it's important when you are drafting a will to be thinking about what do I want? Who do I want to get what I have? I like to explain to clients that a will is a snapshot. It's like taking a picture of exactly what you owned at the moment you die. Most people believe that it automatically goes to the spouse and clearly that's not the case. But there are ways to address that and to protect those interests. It's also important to think about the interests of your spouse, your partner, etc. in light of this, because you could be separated from your spouse and have lived apart, may not even have spoken for a decade. But if you die, he or she is likely to show up. And a lawyer should be explaining to you that that person is able to receive funds from your estate. In other words, maybe it's time not to just be separate, but to seek out the counsel of a matrimonial lawyer to help you decide. What should I do? Maybe it is time to file for a divorce. The important part of this message isn't that. Oh, a spouse can collect no matter what you do. It's the importance of planning. The importance of recognizing what you can do and what you cannot do, and what the law says you can do and what you cannot do. Because when you pass your will will be probated, which means it'll be filed with the Register of Wills in whatever county where you resided. And the person who is sworn to administer and handle the affairs of your estate will have to do so according to the law. That means they have to know or certainly their lawyer should know and should advise them that. Aha. Even though the wills said everything in the estate is going to that long lost cousin that you hadn't even heard of. That's not the case at all. And our office is the law offices of Daniel J. Segal, LLC. We try to explain this information to clients because we've had many people come into the office over the years who were probated in a state and there was no will. And as a result they just assumed that the spouse got everything. That's not the case. We've also had situations where a spouse made provisions in a will that didn't allow for the other spouse. Sometimes not intentionally, sometimes through a variety of sort of happenstance and perhaps not the best advice. And we've been able to guide them as well. But the key is planning. You need to know what the law is, what the law isn't, and draft your will. Draft your power of attorney. Draft your living will. Draft your advanced directive for health care and draft other estate planning documents. Understanding what the law is, what you can do and what you can't. This has been the Legal Tech Podcast sponsored by the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC. You can find us on the web at. Daniel J Siegel.com, D-A-N-I-E-L J-S-I-E-G-E-L dot com. We're located in suburban Philadelphia and are happy to work with you and all of our clients throughout the region. The podcast is also sponsored by Integrated Technology Services, LLC. We help businesses improve their workflow through software training and other methods. Thank you again for listening to today's episode of the Legal Tech Podcast.