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Home > Blog > Estate Planning > Legal Requirements for a Will in New York State

Legal Requirements for a Will in New York State


Writing your will is a good first step in estate planning.  If you write your will by hand, or even type it on your computer, and never show it to anyone for the rest of your life, then after you die, your family and friends will know what you want to happen to your property, but your wishes will not have the force of law.  If it doesn’t conform to the legal requirements, your will is not a will.  Instead, it is just a list of your hopes and fears.  If your New Year’s resolution for 2023 was to write your will, then your resolution for 2024 should be to make it official.  The legal requirements for a last will and testament in New York are surprisingly simple.  It only takes a few minutes to turn your will from a wish list into an official legal document.  Before you take that step, though, you should review a draft of your will with a Bronx estate planning lawyer.

How Should Your Will Look?

Your will does not have to look like it is ready for prime time to be a legally valid will.  You don’t have to print it on resume paper or get it notarized.  It only needs to be a written document; you cannot merely express your wishes in spoken language, like people used to do in ancient times.  A more modern interpretation of this rule is that an audio recording cannot legally count as your will.  If you are in the habit of recording voice notes with your ideas in the moment and then typing them up in Word documents later, this is one voice note to type up sooner rather than later.  Likewise, an electronic copy of your will does not count, even if the file’s metadata clearly shows you as its author.

Your will can be handwritten, typed on a typewriter, or created on a word processor and then printed on paper.  Your will must also clearly state that it is a will.  There is not just one way you can do this, but a simple and effective way is to write the title “Last Will and Testament” at the top of your document.

Requirements for Signatures and Witnesses

Two witnesses must sign your will.  They do not need to read the whole thing before they sign it, only the attestation statement that says that they are signing the will to make it official.  You and the witnesses must all be in the same room together when all three of you sign.  The witnesses can be anyone over the age of 18, as long as the court has not declared them incompetent to sign legal documents.  If you are physically unable to sign your will because of poor physical health, you may have a proxy sign it for you, but the proxy must be in the same room with you and the witnesses.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Bronx Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning lawyer can help you ensure that your will is legally valid.  Contact Cavallo & Cavallo in the Bronx, New York to set up a consultation.



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