From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: “Will the Register of Wills Reject my Pennsylvania Will if I Have no Witnesses?”
Most recently updated April 27th, 2018.
Witnesses and Wills.
Most states require that at the time you sign your will you have two witnesses. Usually, these witnesses must under your name. These are known as “Subscribing Witnesses”. Pennsylvania is an exception to this common practice. In Pennsylvania, you need no Subscribing Witness when you sign your will.
What if There are no Subscribing Witnesses?
In Pennsylvania, if you have no witnesses a will can still be respected. The executor can still bring the will and death certificate to the Register of Wills. Each county has a Register of Wills tasked with authenticating wills. If you have no subscribing witnesses, the Register of Wills will accept the original will into probate if you can provide two witnesses who, under oath, identify your signature. For some people this is easy. Often family members might easily recognize the signature. For other people, finding someone to authenticate a signature can be difficult. Further, this process takes more time and can add expense to the estate.
Avoid Complications, Secure Two Subscribing Witnesses.
To avoid complications, it is best to have two Subscribing Witnesses and, in addition, add a “Self-Proving” page to the will.the Self-Proving page eliminates the need for witnesses to appear in the Register’s office for probate. To qualify, the Self-Proving must have the proper acknowledgments and affidavits. Further, at the will’s execution, the testator and the Subscribing Witnesses must sign the page. The Self-Proving page saves time and reduces costs.
Will the Register of Wills Reject my Pennsylvania Will if I Have no Witnesses?
It is possible for the Register to accept a will without subscribing witnesses in Pennsylvania. But, to save time and expense have your experienced estate planning lawyer arrange for two witnesses and a Self-Proving page.
If you have any other questions about Pennsylvania Probate, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Wills, Trusts, and Estates, It’s all we do!
Peter Klenk, Estate Planning Lawyer