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CHAPTER 25

WILLS

 

Sec.

2501.  Who may make a will.

2502.  Form and execution of a will.

2503.  Nuncupative wills (Repealed).

2504.  Witnesses (Repealed).

2504.1. Validity of execution.

2505.  Revocation of a will.

2506.  Revival of revoked or invalid will.

2507.  Modification by circumstances.

2508.  Change by election of surviving spouse (Repealed).

2509.  Forfeiture of right of election (Repealed).

2510.  How election made (Repealed).

2511.  Time for making election (Repealed).

2512.  Failure to make an election (Repealed).

2513.  Grantee or lienholder (Repealed).

2514.  Rules of interpretation.

2515.  Devise or bequest to trust.

2516.  Devise in fee tail abolished.

2517.  Rule in Shelley's case and doctrine of worthier title.

2518.  Alienage.

2519.  Testamentary guardian.

2520.  Personal estate of nonresident (Repealed).

2521.  Penalty clause for contest.

 

Enactment.  Chapter 25 was added June 30, 1972, P.L.508, No.164, effective July 1, 1972.

Cross References.  Chapter 25 is referred to in section 6306 of this title; section 5603 of Title 23 (Domestic Relations).

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§ 2501.  Who may make a will.

Any person 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind may make a will.

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(Dec. 6, 1972, P.L.1461, No.331; Dec. 10, 1974, P.L.867, No.293, eff. imd.; July 9, 1976, P.L.551, No.135, eff. imd.)

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§ 2502.  Form and execution of a will.

Every will shall be in writing and shall be signed by the testator at the end thereof, subject to the following rules and exceptions:

(1)  Words following signature.--The presence of any writing after the signature to a will, whether written before or after its execution, shall not invalidate that which precedes the signature.

(2)  Signature by mark.--If the testator is unable to sign his name for any reason, a will to which he makes his mark and to which his name is subscribed before or after he makes his mark shall be as valid as though he had signed his name thereto: Provided, That he makes his mark in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to the will in his presence.

(3)  Signature by another.--If the testator is unable to sign his name or to make his mark for any reason, a will to which his name is subscribed in his presence and by his express direction shall be as valid as though he had signed his name thereto: Provided, That he declares the instrument to be his will in the presence of two witnesses who sign their names to it in his presence.

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(Dec. 10, 1974, P.L.867, No.293, eff. imd.; Dec. 1, 1994, P.L.655, No.102, eff. 60 days)

 

1994 Amendment.  Act 102 amended the intro. par. and par. (2). Section 10 of Act 102 provided that the amendment of the intro. par. and par. (2) shall apply to wills executed on or after the effective date of Act 102.

Cross References.  Section 2502 is referred to in sections 2504.1, 3132.1, 3154 of this title.

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§ 2503.  Nuncupative wills (Repealed).

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1974 Repeal.  Section 2503 was repealed December 10, 1974, P.L.867, No.293, effective immediately.

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§ 2504.  Witnesses (Repealed).

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1974 Repeal.  Section 2504 was repealed December 10, 1974, P.L.867, No.293, effective immediately.

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§ 2504.1.  Validity of execution.

A will is validly executed if executed in compliance with section 2502 (relating to form and execution of a will), or in compliance with the law of the jurisdiction where the testator was domiciled at the time of the execution of the will or at the time of his death.

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(Dec. 10, 1974, P.L.867, No.293, eff. imd.)

 

1974 Amendment.  Act 293 added section 2504.1.

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§ 2505.  Revocation of a will.

No will or codicil in writing, or any part thereof, can be revoked or altered otherwise than:

(1)  Will or codicil.--By some other will or codicil in writing;

(2)  Other writing.--By some other writing declaring the same, executed and proved in the manner required of wills; or

(3)  Act to the document.--By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revocation, by the testator himself or by another person in his presence and by his express direction. If such act is done by any person other than the testator, the direction of the testator must be proved by the oaths or affirmations of two competent witnesses.

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§ 2506.  Revival of revoked or invalid will.

If, after the making of any will, the testator shall execute a later will which expressly or by necessary implication revokes the earlier will, the revocation of the later will shall not revive the earlier will, unless the revocation is in writing and declares the intention of the testator to revive the earlier will, or unless, after such revocation, the earlier will shall be reexecuted. Oral republication of itself shall be ineffective to revive a will.

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§ 2507.  Modification by circumstances.

Wills shall be modified upon the occurrence of any of the following circumstances, among others:

(1)  Death within 30 days; religious and charitable gifts.--(Repealed).

(2)  Divorce or pending divorce.--Any provision in a testator's will in favor of or relating to the testator's spouse shall become ineffective for all purposes unless it appears from the will that the provision was intended to survive a divorce, if the testator:

(i)  is divorced from such spouse after making the will; or

(ii)  dies domiciled in this Commonwealth during the course of divorce proceedings, no decree of divorce has been entered pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3323 (relating to decree of court) and grounds have been established as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3323(g).

(3)  Marriage.--If the testator marries after making a will, the surviving spouse shall receive the share of the estate to which he would have been entitled had the testator died intestate, unless the will shall give him a greater share or unless it appears from the will that the will was made in contemplation of marriage to the surviving spouse.

(4)  Birth or adoption.--If the testator fails to provide in his will for his child born or adopted after making his will, unless it appears from the will that the failure was intentional, such child shall receive out of the testator's property not passing to a surviving spouse, such share as he would have received if the testator had died unmarried and intestate owning only that portion of his estate not passing to a surviving spouse.

(5)  Slaying.--Any person who participates either as a principal or as an accessory before the fact in the willful and unlawful killing of any person shall not in any way acquire property or receive any benefits as the result of the willful and unlawful killing but such property or benefits shall be distributed as provided by Chapter 88 (relating to slayers).

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(July 9, 1976, P.L.551, No.135, eff. imd.; Dec. 16, 1992, P.L.1163, No.152, eff. imd.; Oct. 27, 2010, P.L.837, No.85, eff. 60 days)

 

2010 Amendment.   Act 85 amended par. (2).

1992 Amendment.   Act 152 amended pars. (2) and (3). Section 27(d) of Act 152 provided that the amendment of pars. (2) and (3) shall apply to the estates of decedents dying on or after the effective date of Act 152.

1976 Repeal.   Act 135 repealed par. (1).

Cross References.   Section 2507 is referred to in section 3153 of this title.

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§ 2508.  Change by election of surviving spouse (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2508 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2509.  Forfeiture of right of election (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2509 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2510.  How election made (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2510 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2511.  Time for making election (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2511 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2512.  Failure to make an election (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2512 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2513.  Grantee or lienholder (Repealed).

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1978 Repeal.  Section 2513 was repealed April 18, 1978, P.L.42, No.23, effective in 60 days.

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§ 2514.  Rules of interpretation.

In the absence of a contrary intent appearing therein, wills shall be construed as to real and personal estate in accordance with the following rules:

(1)  Wills construed as if executed immediately before death.--(Repealed).

(1.1)  Construction that will passes all property.--A will shall be construed to apply to all property which the testator owned at his death, including property acquired after the execution of his will.

(2)  After-acquired property.--(Repealed).

(3)  Devises of real estate.--All devises of real estate shall pass the whole estate of the testator in the premises devised, although there be no words of inheritance or of perpetuity.

(4)  Meaning of "heirs" and "next of kin," etc.; time of ascertaining class.--A devise or bequest of real or personal estate, whether directly or in trust, to the testator's or another designated person's "heirs" or "next of kin" or "relatives" or "family" or to "the persons thereunto entitled under the intestate laws" or to persons described by words of similar import, shall mean those persons, including the spouse, who would take under the intestate laws if the testator or other designated person were to die intestate at the time when such class is to be ascertained, a resident of the Commonwealth, and owning the estate so devised or bequeathed: Provided, however, That the share of a spouse, other than the spouse of the testator, shall not include the allowance under the intestate laws. The time when such class is to be ascertained shall be the time when the devise or bequest is to take effect in enjoyment.

(5)  Time for ascertaining class.--In construing a devise or bequest to a class other than a class described in section 2514(4), the class shall be ascertained at the time the devise or bequest is to take effect in enjoyment, except that the issue then living of any member of the class who is then dead shall take per stirpes the share which their deceased ancestor would have taken if he had then been living.

(6)  Meaning of "die without issue" and similar phrases.--In any devise or bequest of real or personal estate, the words "die without issue," "die without leaving issue," "have no issue," or other words importing either a want or failure of issue of any person in his lifetime or at the time of his death, or an indefinite failure of his issue, shall be construed to mean a want or failure of issue in his lifetime or at his death, and not an indefinite failure of his issue.

(7)  Adopted children.--In construing paragraphs (9), (10) and (11) of this section, relating to lapsed and void devises and legacies, and in construing a will making a devise or bequest to a person or persons described by relationship to the testator or to another, any adopted person shall be considered the child of his adopting parent or parents, except that, in construing the will of a testator who is not the adopting parent, an adopted person shall not be considered the child of his adopting parent or parents unless the adoption occurred during the adopted person's minority or reflected an earlier parent-child relationship that existed during the child's minority. An adopted person who is considered the child of his adopting parent or parents under this paragraph shall not be considered as continuing to be the child of his natural parents except in construing the will of a natural kin, other than the natural parent, who has maintained a family relationship with the adopted person. If a natural parent shall have married the adopting parent, the adopted person shall also be considered the child of such natural parent.

(8)  Persons born out of wedlock.--In construing paragraphs (9), (10) and (11), relating to lapsed and void devises and legacies, and in construing a will making a devise or bequest to a person or persons described by relationship to the testator or to another, a person born out of wedlock shall be considered the child of the natural mother and also of the natural father if paternity of the natural father has been determined pursuant to the provisions of section 2107 (relating to persons born out of wedlock).

(9)  Lapsed and void devises and legacies; substitution of issue.--A devise or bequest to a child or other issue of the testator or to his brother or sister or to a child of his brother or sister whether designated by name or as one of a class shall not lapse if the beneficiary shall fail to survive the testator and shall leave issue surviving the testator but shall pass to such surviving issue who shall take per stirpes the share which their deceased ancestor would have taken had he survived the testator: Provided, That such a devise or bequest to a brother or sister or to the child of a brother or sister shall lapse to the extent to which it will pass to the testator's spouse or issue as a part of the residuary estate or under the intestate laws.

(10)  Lapsed and void devises and legacies; shares not in residue.--A devise or bequest not being part of the residuary estate which shall fail or be void because the beneficiary fails to survive the testator or because it is contrary to law or otherwise incapable of taking effect or which has been revoked by the testator or is undisposed of or is released or disclaimed by the beneficiary, if it shall not pass to the issue of the beneficiary under the provisions of paragraph (9) hereof, and if the disposition thereof shall not be otherwise expressly provided for by law, shall be included in the residuary devise or bequest, if any, contained in the will.

(11)  Lapsed and void devises and legacies; shares in residue.--When a devise or bequest as described in paragraph (10) hereof shall be included in a residuary clause of the will and shall not be available to the issue of the devisee or legatee under the provisions of paragraph (9) hereof, and if the disposition shall not be otherwise expressly provided for by law, it shall pass to the other residuary devisees or legatees, if any there be, in proportion to their respective shares or interests in the residue.

(12)  Real estate subject to a mortgage.--(Repealed).

(12.1)  Property subject to a security interest.--A specific devise or bequest of real or personal property passes that property subject to any security interest therein existing at the date of the testator's death, without any right of exoneration out of any other estate of the testator regardless whether the security interest was created by the testator or by a previous owner and any general directive in the will to pay debts.

(13)  Power of appointment.--(Deleted by amendment).

(14)  Cemetery lot.--If in a will no express disposition or other mention is made of a cemetery lot owned by the testator at his decease and wherein he or any member of his family is buried, the ownership of the lot shall not pass from his lawful heirs by a residuary or other general clause of the will but shall descend to his heirs as if he had died intestate.

(15)  Inheritance tax.--The inheritance tax imposed by the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1961 upon the transfer of real or personal property which passes by will absolutely and in fee, and which is not part of the residuary estate, shall be paid out of the residuary estate and charged in the same manner as a general administration expense. Such inheritance tax imposed upon the transfer of any estate, income or interest for a term of years, for life or for other limited period, shall be paid out of the principal of the property by which the estate income or interest is supported.

(16)  Ademption.--(Repealed).

(16.1)  Nonademption; incapacity.--If property of an adjudicated incapacitated person specifically devised or bequeathed is sold or exchanged or if a condemnation award or insurance proceeds are paid to the estate of an incapacitated person as a result of condemnation, fire or casualty, the specific legatee or devisee has the right to the net sale price, the property received in exchange, the condemnation award or the insurance proceeds. This paragraph does not apply if subsequent to the sale, exchange, condemnation, or casualty, the testator has been adjudicated not to be an incapacitated person and survives the adjudication by one year.

(16.2)  Nonademption; agent.--If an agent under a power of attorney, during the time that his principal is an incapacitated person within the meaning of section 5501 (relating to meaning of incapacitated person), sells or exchanges property of the principal which is specifically devised or bequeathed, the specific legatee or devisee has the right to the net sale price or the property received in exchange. For the purposes of this paragraph, a sale or exchange of property made by an agent shall be deemed to have been made during the time that the principal is an incapacitated person, unless shown to the contrary. This paragraph does not apply if it is shown that for a period of at least one year subsequent to the sale or exchange the principal was not an incapacitated person within the meaning of section 5501.

(17)  Change in securities.--If the testator intended a specific bequest of securities owned by him at the time of the execution of his will, rather than the equivalent value thereof, the legatee is entitled only to:

(i)  as much of those securities as formed a part of the testator's estate at the time of his death;

(ii)  any additional or other securities issued by the same entity thereon and owned by the testator by reason of a stock dividend, stock split or other action by the entity, excluding any acquired by exercise of purchase options for more than a fractional share; and

(iii)  securities of another entity received thereon or in exchange therefor and owned by the testator as a result of a merger, consolidation or reorganization of the entity or other similar change.

(18)  Nonademption; balance.--A devisee or legatee of property specifically devised or bequeathed has the right to any of that property which the testator still owned at his death and:

(i)  any balance of the purchase price or balance of property to be received in exchange, together with any security interest, owing from a purchaser to the testator at his death by reason of a sale or exchange of the property by the testator;

(ii)  any amount due for the condemnation of the property and unpaid at the testator's death;

(iii)  any proceeds unpaid at the testator's death on fire or casualty insurance on the property; and

(iv)  property owned by the testator at his death as a result of foreclosure, or obtained in lieu of foreclosure, of the security for a specifically bequeathed obligation.

(19)  Employee benefits.--Benefits received by a trust under a Federally qualified profit sharing, pension or stock bonus plan shall not be available for the payment of obligations of the decedent or of his estate.

(20)  Corporate fiduciaries.--Provisions authorizing or restricting investment in the securities or common trust funds of a corporate fiduciary or the exercise of voting rights in its securities shall also apply to the securities or common trust funds of any corporation which is an affiliate of the corporate fiduciary within the meaning of section 1504 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Public Law 99-514, 26 U.S.C. § 1504).

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(July 9, 1976, P.L.551, No.135, eff. imd.; Nov. 26, 1978, P.L.1269, No.303, eff. imd.; Oct. 12, 1984, P.L.929, No.182, eff. imd.; Apr. 16, 1992, P.L.108, No.24, eff. 60 days; Dec. 16, 1992, P.L.1163, No.152, eff. imd.; Oct. 12, 1999, P.L.422, No.39, eff. 60 days; July 8, 2016, P.L.497, No.79, eff. Jan. 1, 2017)

 

2016 Amendment.  Act 79 deleted par. (13).

1999 Amendment.  Act 39 amended par. (16.2). See section 13(8) of Act 39 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to applicability.

1992 Amendments.  Act 24 amended pars. (16.1) and (16.2) and Act 152 added par. (20). See section 21 of Act 24 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to applicability. See section 27(b) of Act 152 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to applicability.

1978 Amendment.  Act 303 amended par. (8). Section 5 of Act 303 provided that Act 303 shall not apply to wills or conveyances executed prior to the effective date of Act 303 or to rights from and through a child's father if the father had died prior to the effective date of Act 303.

1976 Amendment.  Act 135 amended par. (7), repealed pars. (1), (2), (12) and (16) and added pars. (1.1), (12.1), (16.1), (17), (18) and (19).

References in Text.  The act of June 15, 1961 (P.L.373, No.207), known as the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1961, referred to in par. (15), was repealed by the act of December 13, 1982 (P.L.1086, No.255). The subject matter is now contained in Article XXI of the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.

Cross References.  Section 2514 is referred to in section 2211 of this title.

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§ 2515.  Devise or bequest to trust.

A devise or bequest in a will may be made to the trustee of a trust, including any unfunded trust, established in writing by the testator or any other person before, concurrently with or after the execution of the will. Such devise or bequest shall not be invalid because the trust is amendable or revocable, or both, or because the trust was amended after execution of the will. Unless the will provides otherwise, the property so devised or bequeathed shall not be deemed held under a testamentary trust of the testator but shall become and be a part of the principal of the trust to which it is given to be administered and disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the instrument establishing that trust and any amendment thereof. An entire revocation of the trust prior to the testator's death shall invalidate the devise or bequest unless the will directs otherwise.

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(Dec. 16, 1992, P.L.1163, No.152, eff. imd.)

 

1992 Amendment.  See section 27(b) of Act 152 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to applicability.

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§ 2516.  Devise in fee tail abolished.

Whenever by any devise an estate in fee tail would be created according to the common law of the Commonwealth, it shall pass an estate in fee simple, and as such shall be inheritable and freely alienable.

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§ 2517.  Rule in Shelley's case and doctrine of worthier title.

(a)  Rule in Shelley's case.--The rule in Shelley's case and its corollaries shall not be applied, and a devise or bequest directly or in trust which shall express an intent to create an estate for life with remainder to the life tenant's heirs or the heirs of his body or his issue or his next of kin or persons described by words of similar import shall not operate to give such life tenant an estate in fee in real estate or an absolute estate in personalty.

(b)  Doctrine of worthier title.--The doctrine of worthier title shall not be applied as a rule of law or as a rule of construction. Language in a governing instrument describing the beneficiaries of a disposition as the transferor's heirs, heirs at law, next of kin, distributees, relatives or family or language of similar import shall not create or presumptively create a reversionary interest in the transferor.

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(Dec. 1, 1994, P.L.655, No.102, eff. 60 days)

 

1994 Amendment.  Section 10 of Act 102 provided that the amendment of section 2517 shall apply to wills executed, trusts created and conveyances made before, on or after the effective date of Act 102.

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§ 2518.  Alienage.

Real and personal estate shall pass without regard to whether the testator or any devisee or legatee is or has been an alien.

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§ 2519.  Testamentary guardian.

(a)  Guardian of the person.--A person competent to make a will, being the sole surviving parent or adopting parent of any unmarried minor child, may appoint a testamentary guardian of the person of such child during his minority, or for any shorter period except that no parent who, for one year or upwards previous to his death, shall have willfully neglected or refused to provide for his child, or who, for a like period, shall have deserted the child or willfully failed to perform parental duties, shall have the right to appoint a testamentary guardian of the person of such child.

(b)  Guardian of the estate.--Any person may by will appoint a guardian of real or personal property passing to a minor upon his death, when such property:

(1)  Is devised, bequeathed or appointed to the minor in that person's will or descends from that person to the minor by intestacy.

(2)  Is the proceeds of an insurance or annuity contract on the testator's life, unless the owner of the contract has made an inter vivos designation of a guardian therefor.

(3)  Arises from an inter vivos transfer, the major portion of which constituted a gift from the testator, unless the testator has made an inter vivos designation of a guardian therefor.

(4)  Is a cause of action arising by reason of the testator's death.

(5)  Is a pension or death benefit from an employer of the testator or a society or organization of which the testator was a member.

(6)  Is a tentative trust of which the testator was the settlor.

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(Oct. 4, 1978, P.L.909, No.173, eff. 60 days)

 

1978 Amendment.  Act 173 amended subsec. (a).

Cross References.  Section 2519 is referred to in section 5615 of Title 23 (Domestic Relations).

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§ 2520.  Personal estate of nonresident (Repealed).

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1976 Repeal.  Section 2520 was repealed July 9, 1976, P.L.551, No.135, effective immediately.

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§ 2521.  Penalty clause for contest.

A provision in a will or trust purporting to penalize an interested person for contesting the will or trust or instituting other proceedings relating to the estate or trust is unenforceable if probable cause exists for instituting proceedings.

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(Dec. 1, 1994, P.L.655, No.102, eff. 60 days)

 

1994 Amendment.  Act 102 added section 2521. Section 10 of Act 102 provided that section 2521 shall apply to wills executed, trusts created and conveyances made before, on or after the effective date of Act 102.