Without A Will? What Happens in PA to Children if Parents Die


“What happens to my children if my husband and I die together and we don’t have Wills?”

It’s a scary thought isn’t it? As an estate planning and simple Wills lawyer in Chester County, PA,  I hear this type of question quite often and the answer can be frightening.  It is an unpleasant possibility of life we don’t ever want to imagine for our children.  However, I always tell parents who need a Will made,  without a Will to dictate parents’ wishes for the best possible alternative upbringing and care for their loved little ones, things can sadly go awry.

If both parents die without naming a guardian for their children in PA, there is no guarantee who they would choose to take care of their children would be legally followed.  I have experienced sad instances when undesirable or unqualified family members have petitioned the court for guardianship of the children.  This could be an elderly, unpleasant mother-in-law not equipped to raise young children or a parent’s sibling with issues who may be hoping for money to come their way with little regard to the children’s welfare.  In the aftermath of a traumatic event, children could be in the middle of a battle between two different sides of the family for guardianship. The lucky ones have a mature, responsible, level-headed, caring family member step forward to take care of the children with their best interest at heart and everyone’s cooperation.  The decision, however, is ultimately left to a court, a judge, who doesn’t know the family and needs to make the best, quick decision based on the information presented since a Will is not available.

As I tell parents where I live in Pennsylvania who want to make sure the right person takes care of their children if they unexpectedly died, I understand we all have our reasons for not getting this necessary task done.  The busyness of life can find itself in the way of something we know will be unpleasant.  The prospect of a tragedy is unthinkable enough, but often it can lead to disagreements between parents over who should serve as guardian.  It can be overwhelming.  The cost of having a Will made by hiring a lawyer may seem pricy but if you do your own, will it be adequate?

The best answer I can give parents to answer the question “what will happen to my children if we die without a Will” is that it is not a good idea to leave this important matter to chance.  Be prepared.  You take the best care of your children in life and you need to do the same if you would not be there.  The time to plan a Will with your wishes legally enforced is NOW because the unthinkable can happen at any time.

A personal family tragedy and having children of her own compelled Beth Forman Rodinelli, Esq. to provide individuals and families in Pennsylvania with an affordable and convenient “Peace of Mind” package.  It includes the three most important documents needed to take care of matters: Simple Wills, Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive/Living Wills. She can work with you within your schedule and location in Pennsylvania. 

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