Requirements for Executing a Will in New York
Executing a will is the act of signing a will and making it legally binding. New York law has strict requirements for executing a will. First, a person executing a will must be at least 18 years old. The legal term for the maker of the will is Testator, and in New York a will is formally called a “Last Will and Testament.”
In order to properly sign the will, the Testator must sign “at the end thereof.” Any words that appear on the will following the signature are not given effect. In some instances, an entire will may be declared invalid if there is text following the signature that is so important that not giving it effect would defeat the Testator’s intention.
In order to be valid, a will must also be witnessed. Witnessing is an act which makes the signature on the will legally valid. New York law requires that the Testator must either 1) sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses or 2) acknowledge his or her earlier signature in the presence of at least two witnesses.
Furthermore, the Testator must communicate to the witnesses that they are witnessing the will by orally declaring the document to be the Testator’s Last Will and Testament. This requirement helps to assure the witnesses that the Testator is aware of the legal importance of the act. Next, the witnesses must both sign the will. Although the witnesses do not have to sign at the same time, the signature of the second witness must be completed 30 days from the first witness’ signature. In New York, this act of signing the will and declaring it to be valid is also called an execution ceremony.
Often, a Testator wants to have his or her will witnessed by his or her friends and family. However, friends and family are also likely to be named beneficiaries in the will. It is important to be aware of how New York law can affect witnesses who are also named beneficiaries. If a named beneficiary is one of the attesting witnesses, the bequest to that beneficiary is void unless there are at least two other disinterested witnesses.
An Estate Planning Attorney can help the Testator ensure that the will, as drafted, accurately reflects his or her wishes. Moreover, having a New York Estate Planning Attorney supervise the execution ceremony can help to ensure that the entire will is valid and that the beneficiaries do not forfeit their share under the will.
Our attorneys will help make certain that the formal requirements are satisfied in accordance with New York law. Should you have any questions about drafting and executing a will or other estate planning documents, please feel free to contact our office. We offer free consultation.
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