What happens to a will if there’s a name change in Pennsylvania?

name change in will

Many people undergo name changes for a number of reasons. Whether it is a personal reason or they change their last name after getting married, this can pose issues when executing a will. If you are concerned about a beneficiary who recently changed their name and how it will impact their ability to receive their inheritance, you’ll want to keep reading to understand the implications of these circumstances. You’ll also discover how PA wills, trusts & estates attorneys can help answer any questions you may have about the estate planning process.

Does a name change invalidate a will?

In most instances, a name change, or even a slight misspelling, will not impact a will. For example, if you leave a percentage of your estate to your daughter, Alice Smith, but she gets married and changes her name to Alice Green, it is still understood that your intention was to leave it to your daughter. This means the executor of your will would be able to distribute Alice’s inheritance without a problem.

While uncommon, some courts may require the beneficiary to show proof of a name change. This could be their birth certificate and marriage license.

When could it be a problem?

Though somewhat uncommon, problems can arise if a beneficiary changes their name. For example, if you leave your entire estate to Alice Smith but have a niece with the same name, your executor will not know who the intended recipient is, as your daughter is now Alice Green. If the executor cannot determine which individual you intended to leave your estate to, three things could happen:

  • The state could invalidate your will, leaving your estate in intestacy
  • The state could rectify your will
  • Your executor could distribute the assets to the wrong person

How can I avoid issues with my will?

If you are worried about issues with your will after you pass away, doing what you can to make your estate plan airtight is essential. Doing so under the guidance of a Philidelphia estates attorney is a great way to avoid potential issues with your plan.

You can also specify your relationship to the beneficiaries you name, which can help make it easier for your executor to understand who the intended recipient is. For example, you could say that you wish to leave your entire estate “to my only daughter, Alice Smith.” As will executors distribute based on the creator’s intent, this helps ensure your wishes are met. Another option is to update your estate plan to include name changes by adding a simple codicil.

When you need help creating, updating, or executing a will, Friedman Schuman is here to help. We understand that estate planning can be complex, so let our dedicated legal team guide you through the process. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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