That is the question. The most important part of planning for the future is to do it early. In our line of work, it occurs too often where estate planning gets put off until someone dies or becomes incapacitated. This leaves family and loved ones without a clear plan for managing their property and can aggravate stress and family tensions while they try to locate bank accounts and handle finances.
For those who pass without a Last Will and Testament, Pennsylvania law provides for who inherits from their estate. If a married person dies, their estate will be split among their spouse and their children or, if there are no children, the parents of the decedent. If instead, the person who died is single, then their estate will pass to their children. If there are no children, the estate passes in order to their parents, siblings, grandparents, and then uncles or aunts, first cousins, and children of first cousins. If a person dies without any of these people, the inheritance will go to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For someone who only wants to pass their property to their nearest relatives, a Last Will and Testament may be unnecessary.
Yet, family trees tend to get more complicated. The statute does not allow a person to provide for a favorite cousin or grandchild if they have children still alive. You might want to pass over an estranged family member, or you might want to provide for a friend, charity, or unmarried partner or their children. It may also be wise to establish a trust for a relative with a disability or who has a troubled financial past. In these situations, a Will can better set out your desires and help your loved ones carry out your final wishes.