A will lets your family know what should happen to your property after you die. If you have children, your will can establish a caregiver for them if both parents die before they turn 18.

Review these important reasons to have an estate plan that includes a valid will.

Name an executor

This trusted person, typically a friend or family member, distributes your property according to your will. He or she will also wrap up other affairs of your estate, such as settling debts, canceling financial accounts and paying taxes. Without a will, the court will appoint an individual to manage your estate.

Establish a guardian

If you are your child’s only parent and you die or if both parents die, a will determines who will serve as the child’s guardian. Otherwise, the judge will decide who takes custody of your children in this situation. He or she can choose a family member or a court-appointed guardian.

Distribute your assets

Even if you are not wealthy, having a will lets you decide who will get your property after you die. The will can list everything from personal belongings to real estate and financial accounts. Without a will, the court will distribute your property according to Pennsylvania law. This could result in an ex-spouse or another estranged family member receiving your assets against your wishes.

In Pennsylvania, a will is legally valid if you are mentally sound and age 18 or older. You must sign the will in front of two witnesses, who also sign the will. The state does not recognize verbal wills.