New York Wills: Who Needs A Will & Why?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Deciding whether or not to have a will is a personal choice. Before making that decision, it’s important to know the facts about how wills work – especially in New York. To provide those facts, we asked an expert.

New York Attorney Elliot Schlissel

We interviewed Elliot Schlissel, a New York attorney for over 30 years whose practice focuses on estate planning and several other areas of the law, who explained how wills work in New York. Here’s what he told us:

Who needs a will and why?

Anyone with assets should have a will. If you have no assets, you don’t need a will. Anyone with a house should have a will. It makes things clear as to what would happen to that house in the event of your death. To view a video on this subject, click here.

What are the requirements for a valid will in New York?

It must be written and acknowledged. The person writing the will must have testamentary capacity, meaning that they know what they’re doing. There must be no fraud or duress or undue influence involved. It must also be signed at the end and acknowledged before a minimum of two witnesses.

Are handwritten, or holographic, wills valid in New York?

A handwritten will is valid if it meets the other requirements in New York. However, it is extremely rare that handwritten wills are accepted and it would generally be a mistake to use a handwritten will. Videotaped or oral wills are not valid in New York. What we do in New York is if you want to have a videotape, we do a written will and then do a videotape simultaneously in which you can express things to your children or other loved ones. However, it is the written will that controls. To view a video on this subject, click here.

Can the beneficiary of a will also be a witness to that will?

No. The beneficiaries of the will should not be in the room at the time the will is executed. They shouldn’t be witnesses to the will or help write the will. To view a video on this subject, click here.

Does New York provide for self proving wills?

Yes. Most lawyers do what’s called a self proving will which means that besides executing a will at the time, the witnesses execute a self proving affidavit that is actually used when the will is submitted to probate. To view a video on this subject, click here.

For estate planning needs such as wills, trusts, healthcare proxies, powers of attorney or probate matters, contact an experienced New York wills attorney to discuss you situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and strictly confidential.

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