Derek Cordier, Esquire
319 South Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104
Phone: 717 919-4002
Fax: (717) 230-1931
In Pennsylvania if you die without a Will or a spouse, your estate will pass to your children. If you have no children, your estate will pass to your parents, then to your brothers and sisters or their children. Then to your grandparents and down the family line until your estate goes to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Title 20 Descendents, Estates and Fiduciaries, Chapter 21)
Without a Will, the State decides who will administer your estate, and those costs will come from your estate.
If unmarried, your surviving partner may end up with nothing and may even have to go to court to prove ownership of property that was rightfully theirs.
If you die without a Will and have minor children, a court may appoint a guardian, which may not be the person you hoped to raise them.
Even if your estate is small a Will is important. If you die in an accident as a result of negligence, the persons named in your Will could benefit from an award or settlement.
As for funeral arrangements, if you do not give specific instructions, if unmarried, your partner will not have any legal right to carry out your wishes and could even be barred from the funeral services. Funeral arrangements made in advance will add weight to your wishes. See article It’s Your Body
NOTE: Wills are not the only instrument that can protect your assets. With proper planning, the use of joint ownership with right of survivorship or trusts can avoid probate.