Pennsylvania: Every Legal, Medical, and Estate Planning Document You Need

Here's a complete guide to every critical medical, legal, and estate planning document and relevant state law for Pennsylvania. Download these forms and get started with Pillar to organize all of your most important documents in one safe, secure, easy-to-use online storage solution

February 2, 2021

If you call the state the Keystone State home, then you’ll need to know about all of the unique state laws that apply to your medical records, registries, taxes, and estate planning. Nobody wants to be caught in a situation where they don’t have the right form or know the correct process to go through. Fortunately, we've created a complete list of the most important laws, forms, and documents you should know as a resident of Pennsylvania.

Download these forms and get started organizing your important documents with ease with Pillar today.

Essential Medical State Laws & Forms: Pennsylvania

How Long Do Doctors Keep Medical Records in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania laws mandate that:

  • Hospitals and physicians must retain medical records of adult patients for at least 7 years from the last date of providing discharge or providing medical service
  • Hospitals must retain medical records for at least 1 year for minors
  • Psychologist retain medical records for patients for at least 5 years

During this period, you also have the right to get a copy of your medical records. Find out more about medical records retention in Pennsylvania here.

Learn more about your rights when it comes to your medical records

Advanced Directive Forms & Laws in Pennsylvania

An advance directive contains all of your wishes when it comes to medical care should be unable to speak or make decisions for yourself. Also, referred to as a "living will" your advance directive paperwork is an essential document to have stored and ready because it directs your doctors and loved ones to decide on the right decisions based on your intentions.

Pennsylvania laws provide robust advance directives that cover your preferences for medical care in the event that you're too sick to make decisions yourself. The advance directive will be made up of two parts:

An advanced healthcare directive in Pennsylvania will also cover decisions about end-of-life care that may not be necessarily medical decisions. These include decisions about:

  • How your body should be disposed after death 
  • Whether or not you consent to visitation from clergies
  • Where you want to live out the rest of your life 

How to Create an Advance Directive in Pennsylvania

Penn Medicine provides a free website called Our Care Wishes that enables you to create, store and share a document comprising thorough preferences about your wishes for care.

Under Pennsylvania laws, only one person can be legally recognized as your medical decision-maker. However, the law gives room for stipulating whether the decision-maker can be flexible in carrying out these directives or whether the directives must be strictly followed. 

Download this combined Power of attorney and living will form for the state of Pennsylvania to get started planning for the future today.

How to make create a DNR in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Out-of-Hospital Non-Resuscitation Act permits people with a terminal illness, or their representative, to obtain an out-of-hospital do-not-resuscitate order (OOH DNR). The order directs EMS providers to withhold CPR.

The OOH DNR will be provided and signed by your physician. You can review a sample online. Pennsylvania does not permit physician-assisted suicide.

How to Become an Organ Donor in Pennsylvania

Organ and tissue transplantation is an integral part of healthcare in Pennsylvania. You can become an organ donor in Pennsylvania by visiting the Donate Life PA website to get adequate information as regards organ donation.

Essential Estate Planning Documents and Forms in Pennsylvania

Trust and Probate Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania laws cover processes for transferring a wide range of assets from a deceased to beneficiaries. However, the probate process in Pennsylvania can be expensive and can take a while to complete. In fact, the probate process in Pennsylvania can take between six months and over a year.

Setting up a living trust can help to legally bypass long probate processes. Here's a link to find out more about setting up a living trust in Pennsylvania. 

What if I only have a small estate?

Estates consisting of no real estate and probate property valued at $50,000 or less qualify for a simplified procedure called settlement of small estates on petition. While this process may be less expensive and shorter, it does not absolve the estate of debts to creditors or the IRS.

Learn the biggest differences between a will and a trust

Does Pennsylvania Have an Inheritance Tax?

Pennsylvania is one of several states with a state inheritance tax. The rate for Pennsylvania's inheritance is also fixed and remains fixed no matter of the size of the estate involved. The tax rate is fixed at:

  • 12% for transfers to siblings
  • 4.5% for transfers to direct descendants 
  • 15% for transfers to other heirs

Apart from setting up a living trust, assets where a deceased owned in joint tenancy with others and assets where the deceased designated a beneficiary can also skip the probate process.

How to Get a Death Certificate in Pennsylvania

Death certificates are an official record of the date of death and cause of death of a deceased person. The probate court, banks, life insurance companies, and other entities related to the wrapping up of affairs may require a copy.

There are three ways to obtain a death certificate:

  1. Obtain it online through the Pennsylvania Department of Health vendor VitalChek.
  2. Order by telephone by calling VitalChek at 1-866-712-8238.
  3. Mail an application to:

Division of Vital Records
Death Certificate Processing Unit
Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Under Pennsylvania laws, the following people can request a death certificate from the state of Pennsylvania:

  • Immediate family member
  • An extended family member who can prove a direct relationship with the deceased
  • A legal representative of a deceased estate

Download a certified Pennsylvania death certificate here

Following Pennsylvania's administrative code of 1929, a fee of $20 is usually charged for death certificates irrespective of the quantity you request. You can request a death certificate from the State of Pennsylvania's only authorized vendor. However, an additional $10 fee may apply. 

Pennsylvania Digital Estate Planning Laws

Pennsylvania recently passed its version of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act on July 23, 2020 (“Act”), with an effective date of January 19, 2021. The act provides two methods through which the owner of digital assets may permit a third party to get admission to those assets. The act also specified procedures and protections that assist to guide the custodian's response to requests for digital assets from an assigned recipient.

How to Organize Your Most Important Documents

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