Is Your Handwritten Will Considered Valid in New York?

Understanding whether a handwritten will is valid in New York requires an exploration of New York state laws and unique terms such as “holographic wills.”

What Is a Handwritten Will?

A handwritten will, also referred to as a “holographic will”, is essentially a will and testament drafted in someone’s own handwriting rather than being typed or printed.

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Validity of Handwritten Wills in New York

While holographic wills may be recognized in some contexts, they are generally not recognized as valid under New York law except under highly specified circumstances. In other words, though someone might draft a holographic will in New York, this does not automatically mean it will be considered legal or valid by the court.

Exceptions to the Rule

Exceptions to this rule are limited and narrowly defined:

  • First exception: It applies to members of the US armed forces during an armed conflict.
  • Second exception: It applies to civilians who serve with or accompany these armed forces personnel during the conflict.
  • Final exception: The exception applies to mariners at sea.
  • However, it is important to note that even under these exceptional circumstances, the validity of the holographic will is time-limited.

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    Soundness of Mind and Minimum Age

    Having an understanding of what it means to make a will is also crucially important. In New York, the person making the will, or the “testator”, must be at least 18 years old and of “sound mind.” It is necessary that the testator comprehends the implications of the will, the value of their assets, the potential beneficiaries, and the overall nature of their testamentary act.

    Must Be Written and Witnessed

    A valid will must also follow certain formalities in New York. It should be written and needs to be signed and acknowledged in the presence of two witnesses.

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    Appointing an Executor and Guardian

    A will can also be used to name an executor for the estate who ensures that the terms of the will are carried out after death. It can also be used to appoint a guardian for any minor children.

    Changing or Revoking a Will

    A will, once created, is not inflexible. In New York, a testator has the option to alter or revoke their will. This further emphasizes the need for compliance with the state’s strict legal requirements for will execution.

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    Given the rigorous requirements for creating a valid will in New York, it is advisable to seek qualified legal advice. Handwritten or holographic wills might seem convenient but are subject to strict limitations. In most cases, they are not recognized as valid in New York. This is especially true if the senario doesn’t fall into the very strict exceptions outlined by New York law. The process of creating, witnessing, and filing a will is meant to protect the testator’s intentions and to safeguard the rights of the heirs and beneficiaries.

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