Klenk Law

How an Undated Codicil Can Affect Your Will in Chester County, PA

Posted on Sat Feb 28, 2015, on Estate Planning

From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: The Importance of the Dated Document in Pennsylvania

Most Recently Updated July 9, 2018

“I found a codicil and a will while going through my father’s documents. The codicil is not dated. Is this going to be a problem? I am currently in Chester County, PA.”

Probate-Fees

Importance of the Dated Document in Pennsylvania

Importance of the Dated Document in Pennsylvania

When an Administrator files a Will for probate in Chester County, it may not be the only document the Register of Wills considers. Other documents previously unknown to the beneficiaries of the Will can have a profound influence on the disposition of the decedent’s property.

There’s more out there other than Wills

In many cases, a Will is not the only document expressing the testator’s estate plan. The most typical being a codicil and separate memorandums attempting to dispose of personal property. Navigating the effect of these documents, and the many others that can affect a Will require technical– localized knowledge of the County’s Orphans’ Court decisions.

Case Example

Let’s examine a case that highlights the impact of a codicil on a valid Will. Our facts come from the case, Basner Will, decided by the Orphans’ Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County.

The issue before the court was whether the undated signed document could rightfully be admitted to probate as a codicil, supplanting a valid and dated Will.

Factual Timeline:

  • JB lives in and owns a house in Chester County, Pennsylvania for 35 years.
  • JB’s house is his only property.
  • 7/7/1995, JB signs Will leaving all worldly possessions to mother (EB).
  • 4/23/2005, JB marries SM, who moves into Chester County home.
  • 8/1/2008, JB & SM consult attorney regarding drafting of new Will.
  • 9/30/2011, JB & SM separate, but continue living together.
  • 6/7/12, JB dies.
  • After JB’s death, undated signed document found bequeathing house to SM.
  • Two documents submitted to Register of Wills for probate:
    1. Will signed 7/7/1995 bequeathing “all worldly possessions” to EB; and
    2. Undated signed document bequeathing the house to SM.

SM’s Argument:

SM argued the undated document was a codicil, written and signed after the 1995 Will. A codicil is a supplement or addition to a will. It may explain, modify, add to or subtract from, qualify, alter or revoke provisions in an existing will. In Chester County, the elements of a valid codicil are: a writing, signed by the testator at the end, written sometime after a valid will that is a legal declaration of the testator’s intention to be preformed after the testator’s death.

If the undated document in question was signed before the Will, the Will prevails and governs distribution. But if the undated document was signed after the Will, it constitutes a codicil and governs distribution of the Chester County home.

Outcome:

The court found the unsigned document, under Chester County Orphans’ Court precedent, was a valid codicil. In this case, the document was handwritten with a unique signature. SM’s most difficult burden of proof, when the document was written, was easier to prove than in most cases. SM and JB first met in 2003, therefore, the Orphans’ Court reasoned the document must have been written after 1995. We can imagine many instances when this would be more difficult if not impossible to prove. Finally, the language JB used in the document satisfied the legal declaration of testator’s intent.

SM established the elements of a valid codicil in Chester County, entitling the document to be admitted to probate. Since the house was JB’s only property, the codicil left SM as the sole beneficiary to JB’s estate.

Other Advice:

Orphans’ Court decisions are based on centuries of precedent. And as shown above, in certain circumstances, the result can be technical and unexpected. Having an attorney with a history of estate planning experience is a way to ensure your well-thought-out disposition comes to fruition.

More Probate Questions?

The undated document issue is only part of the overall probate process. By all means, if you wish to learn more, please read my more detailed article, The Probate Process All You Need to Know.

In Conclusion: The Importance of the Dated Document in Pennsylvania

I hope that this article was helpful in explaining what to do if there is an undated document located. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!

Let our Probate Lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced Probate Attorneys.  By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!

Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do

Tags:

Chester County, Pennsylvania, Probate, Probate Attorney, Probate Lawyer

What Our clients are saying

Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Stars

Peter was excellent. He explained everything very clearly and is super friendly. My wife and I originally tried using a lawyer through group legal coverage, but unfortunately the old adage - "you get what you pay for" - applied to the other lawyer, and we decided to go with a real professional.

Stars

When it came down to picking the right attorney to handle my affairs, I knew right away it was this firm. From speaking to their secretary to speaking to Peter I knew I was making the right decision. After only a few mins Peter knew right away what I was looking for and handled all my questions professionally and even gave me great feedback that put my mind at ease. All that without even giving a single penny! So of course I hired him! So far so good...

Stars

AWESOME LAWYER! Peter Klenk is an exceptional attorney and a very nice person! Today I spoke with Peter about estate planning and was impressed with by his professionalism, cordiality, and attention to detail. I highly recommend Klenk Law for probates, wills, trusts, and other issues germane to estate planning!

Stars

Great friendly staff

Stars

Tremendous firm with bright, kind and tenacious people. Great representation for our family.

Stars

I'm totally satisfied with Klenk Law. Peter has a great legal mind with the personality of the guy next door.

Stars

Everything about my experience was a 10+! Peter and his staff made what I thought would be a difficult process easy and understandable. Every detail was handled correctly. No other firm could possibly do better than Klenk Law!

Stars

Peter and his staff are very responsive and always willing to help my clients and in a cost efficient manner.

Stars

Like another reviewer, I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link, for a question regarding PA inheritance taxes. The question was quite technical and difficult to explain, and the answer was nowhere to be found on the web. Peter grasped precisely what I was asking, and provided a clear, helpful response (with a touch of humor) the very next day.

Stars

Answered my question quickly and referred me to a colleague that could handle my problem

Stars

Mr. Klenk, quickly understood the circumstances presented and provided clear and concise advice. This advice provided me with the information I required to progress the case to my advantage.

Stars

Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.

Stars

Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!

Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Stars

Peter explained things in a way that was easy to understand. Everything was done in the time frame he said it. Could not have been better!

Stars

You & your staff are the best thank you for everything.

Stars

Peter and his staff handled all of our needs in a very professional and timely matter.

Stars

Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.

Stars

Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.

Stars

Fantastic customer service. Very personable and most importantly they provide great explanations of what is required based on your individual needs. Highly recommend Klenk Law for anyone that needs to create a will and estate documents.

Stars

Always professional and very responsive. Everyone on the staff that I have worked with. I look forward to continuing our relationship.

Stars

Surprisingly easy

Stars

Affable...yet surprisingly cerebral estate planning atty. High marks all the way around.

Stars

Peter and his associates made things easy for us.

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.