Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

Death of the husband, wife is still alive but incompetent. Don't know if there is a will at this time. Don't know what to do???

Asked on 1/02/12, 8:58 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson

This is not a D-I-Y situation. A caring and close family member or members must consult with an attorney to sort out both the estate of husband and appropriate legal and other care of wife.


* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 1/02/12, 12:04 pm

Not to sound rude, but what is your relationship to either husband or wife and why do you care or why are you involved? It is not really possible to give good advice without knowing the facts or who the alleged client is.

If husband died with a will, the person named in the will as personal representative has to probate the will and distribute any assets to the beneficiary after paying any debts or claims of husband's estate. If wife is incompetent and wife is the personal representative, the successor named in the will have to do it. Same thing if husband made a trust, only the person in charge may be called the trustee.

If husband had no will, the wife would be beneficiary. Since wife is not competent, any child or other interested person could be the personal representative. I hope that wife made a power of attorney while she was competent that authorized someone to act in her behalf. If no, then someone will have to be appointed as the guardian of the wife's person and property. The husband's estate, if wife was the beneficiary, will pay over the wife's share to the wife's power of attorney or guardian of her property. The wife's power of attorney or guardian could also act as her personal representative.

Regarding a will, a diligent search must be made of the husband's important papers. If that reveals nothing, did the husband have a safe deposit box? Search can be made there. Check with the bank and/or the register of wills. There is a specific process for opening a safe deposit box when someone has died.

If the husband had a family attorney, one can always try that to see if the attorney drafted a will.

Failing that, there are no registries unless there is a process to file the will with the court (some states allow this). If nothing turns up, then work on the assumption that the husband had no will and probate his estate via the intestacy lies (as if he had no will).Attorney Jacobson is correct - this is not a do-it-yourself case regardless of whether you are acting for husband or wife or both.

Attorney Jacobson is correct - this is not a do-it-yourself case regardless of whether you are acting for husband or wife or both. Your best bet is to contact a probate attorney in the county/state where the husband lived at the time of his death and allow the attorney to assist with probate of the husband's estate. The wife may need an elder law attorney to assit with her needs as well.

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Answered on 1/02/12, 9:22 pm

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