Previous posts here have mentioned how important it is for people of all ages and asset levels to do estate planning. For some, the most important aspect of estate planning is to designate beneficiaries for the distribution of assets. For others, naming a guardian for minor children is even more important. Regardless of your reason, comprehensive estate planning is not something to put off to “old age.”

Dying without a will in Pennsylvania, also known as dying intestate, may result in unintended consequences. For instance, if a married man with no children and no living parents dies in Pennsylvania, his wife inherits the entire estate. For many people in this type of situation, an estate plan would call for the same result. But, what if the couple is separated or getting a divorce? Life changes like this make it clear that, without a will, dying intestate could lead to unintended outcomes.

Older couples with grown children – even when they stay married – need to know the intestate succession rules in Pennsylvania also. Intestate succession can become more complicated if a Pennsylvania resident has children from more than one marriage.

In essence, dying without a will in Pennsylvania will leave the distribution of your assets up to state law – not your own decision making. There are even circumstances in which siblings, grandparents and or nieces and nephews could end up inheriting your assets. The state intestate laws pass assets on to family members, first and foremost. If you have questions regarding estate planning, you may want to contact an estate planning attorney.