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Basic requirements for a will under New York law

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | Wills |

Your last will and testament expresses your wishes for how you want your property distributed after your death, but it does more than that: If properly executed, your will makes your wishes legally enforceable. This means that the executor you name in your will must — within legal limits –follow your instructions for distributing your assets after you are gone. Without this enforceability, your will would be just a list of your wishes.

Because of its legal power, the courts want to be certain that your will is genuine, and for that reason the law requires that you follow certain formalities.

Basic requirements

Under New York law, the basic requirements for a will are:

  • The person (known as the testator) creating the will must be 18 years older or older.
  • The testator must be of sound mind, meaning that they understand the purpose of their will and generally understand what property they own.
  • The testator must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the will. In some cases it is acceptable for the witnesses to merely be present when the testator acknowledges the will as their own. The witnesses must be disinterested, meaning that they are not named in your will.

Generally, the will must be in writing and on paper. There are exceptions for oral or handwritten wills only in cases involving a member of the armed forces who creates the will during a military conflict. Currently, New York law does not recognize wills if they exist only in the form of an electronic document.