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Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?

Posted on Thu Jul 23, 2020, on Estate Planning

From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?”

Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?

Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk

Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?

Yes, your spouse can make a valid will without your knowledge in Pennsylvania.  Not informing a spouse happens more often than you think.

First, What is a Valid Will? (Hint, telling your spouse is not on the list).

There are four main requirements in a valid will in Pennsylvania:

  1. When signing the will, the testator must have had testamentary intent;
    • This means the person signing the will wanted the document to dictate what happened to his things at death.
  2. At the time of signing, the testator must have testamentary capacity;
    • A person can be very ill and still understand what they are doing.
  3. The testator must have signed the will free of fraud, duress, undue influence or mistake; and
    • In other words, the person wanted to sign the Will without outside pressure.
  4. The testator must execute the will following the state’s rules, including signing at the end.
    • Every state has rules about what makes a valid Will. Pennsylvania is the one state that does not require witnesses.

Notice, informing the spouse about the Will is NOT a requirement.

Examples of When Spouses Are Not Informed About a New Will.

For example, if Bob Doylestown is married to June Doylestown, and June has dementia. June has been declared incapacitated. As part of Bob’s estate planning Philadelphia, he may have his Philadelphia Estate Planning Lawyer draft a Will forming a trust for June. If he dies, she would be the beneficiary, but have no control over the assets. Bob could name a child or trust company as the Trustee.  Bob has no obligation to tell June about this trust.

Another example, let’s introduce Jane Chester, who is in the process of divorcing Joe Chester.  As part of her estate planning Philadelphia, she retains an estate planning attorney. She has him draft a new Will giving her estate to her children and naming her sister as trustee. This way, Joe Chester has no control over the money. Jane Chester has no obligation to inform Joe about this Will.

For more information about what is a valid will, follow this link to my article about Estate Planning

Can my Spouse Make a Power of Attorney Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?

Yes, your spouse can form a new Financial or Medical Power of Attorney without telling you.  There are certain elements necessary for a valid Power of Attorney, but they do not include informing your spouse.

For Example, Jacob Bluebell is divorcing Mary Bluebell. He hires an estate planning attorney as if he becomes incapacitated; he doesn’t want Mary to have control over his assets. As part of his estate plan Philadelphia, the attorney drafts a new Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will as well as a new Financial Durable Power of Attorney. Jacob names his sister as his financial agent, so she can manage his assets if he is unable. He appoints his brother as his medical agent, so the brother can make medical decisions for Jacob if he is ever unable to make decisions. Jacob is not obligated to tell Mary about these new documents.

For more information, follow this link to read more about Living Wills and this link to learn more about Durable General Powers of Attorney.

In Conclusion: Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania?

I hope you found helpful this short article responding to the question, Can my Spouse make a Will Without my Knowledge in Pennsylvania.  I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you are curious about updating your Will, Power of Attorney, or Living Will, contact us and let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

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