Although discussing death with your spouse may make you uncomfortable, one of you will likely live longer than the other. Choosing a proper estate plan in Pennsylvania protects the surviving spouse financially. Children may also enjoy financial protection when you take care of estate planning before your death.
Importance of a will for spouses
If you die without creating a will, Pennsylvania will divide the estate based on the following guidelines:
• If the deceased has no parents and no children, the entire state goes to the surviving spouse.
• If the deceased’s children have a different parent than the surviving spouse, half of the estate goes to the spouse and the remaining half goes to the children.
• If the deceased’s children belong to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives the first $30,000 plus half of the estate while the remainder goes to the children.
The presence of stepchildren and children may complicate the process further. Each complication may extend the amount of time your surviving family spends in court. Estate planning can provide clear guidance on beneficiaries so that the court does not make these decisions.
Joint ownership with rights of survivorship
In certain circumstances, property may not need to go through probate. The state of Pennsylvania recognizes the concept of joint ownership, which allows the property to automatically go to the surviving owner after one owner dies. Some married couples believe their property falls under joint ownership, only to find out that it does not once their spouse passes. Proper estate planning should discuss whether properties fall under joint ownership.
Protect the surviving spouse
Dividing up assets following a death can become an intensely complicated process for a surviving spouse without adequate estate planning. Organizing the estate allows grieving family members to focus on healing rather than protracted probate.