Elective Share, Generally
Although Pennsylvania generally allows decedents to give their property to anyone they wish, this right is limited by laws that are designed to protect surviving spouses.
The right to an elective share is the right to take one-third of the deceased spouse's estate, without regard to any contrary terms in deceased spouse's will. Otherwise, a spouse may be left without any or with just a minimal amount of the deceased spouse's property.
This right inhibits either spouse's ability to specifically disinherit the other or to make testamentary gifts of the entire estate to beneficiaries that do not include the other spouse.
Also, even though the right to an elective share is automatically provided, the elective share will not be paid unless the surviving spouse takes specific action to claim it. Even a surviving spouse who receives less than one-third of the deceased spouse's estate, but does not follow the steps required to make a claim is not granted the elective share.
See: Elective Share, Eligibility; Elective Share, Claiming; Elective Share, Calculation; Elective Share, Subject Property