What You Need to Know About New York Wills

January 17, 2024

Creating a will is a crucial step in ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. In the state of New York, like in many other jurisdictions, there are specific laws and regulations that govern wills. Below, our Long Island will lawyer provides a brief guide on what you need to know about New York wills.

Understanding the Basics

First, it is important to understand the general definition of a will. A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and assets upon your death. In New York, any individual who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can create a will. Sound mind refers to the ability to comprehend the consequences of making a will and understand the nature and extent of one’s property.

Should You Attempt to Do It Yourself or Seek Professional Help?

While it is true that you can attempt to write your own will, seeking assistance from a skilled Long Island will lawyer is highly recommended. Lawyers can guide you through the intricacies of the process, ensuring that your will complies with all legal requirements thereby minimizing the risk of disputes. They can also provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions about your estate.

What are the Formal Requirements for a Valid Will in New York?

A valid will in New York must be in writing and signed by the testator (the person making the will). Additionally, the will must be signed by at least two witnesses, both of whom must be at least 18 years old and not beneficiaries of the will. These formalities are in place to ensure the authenticity of the document and its compliance with New York state laws.

What if You Need to Change Your Will?

Life is dynamic, and circumstances may change. Fortunately, you can update your will at any time by creating a new one or adding a codicil, which is an amendment to the existing will. It’s crucial to follow the same formalities as the original will to ensure the validity of any changes.

The Consequences of Dying Without a Will

If you pass away without a will (also referred to as “intestate”), New York’s laws of intestacy will determine how your assets are distributed. The surviving spouse and children typically take precedence, but the specifics depend on the family structure. Having a will ensures that your wishes are honored and that your assets are distributed according to your desires.

Regular Updates

Life is full of changes, and your will should reflect them as needed. Regularly updating your will to include changes such as births, deaths, or significant asset changes is crucial to maintain its relevance and effectiveness over time. Periodic reviews ensure that your wishes are accurately represented in your will.

Our Long Island Will Lawyer Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions

Can I disinherit someone in my will?

New York allows you to disinherit some individuals, including children, but this must be explicitly stated in your will. However, spouses cannot be totally disinherited.

What is a living will, and do I need one in addition to a regular will?

A living will, or advance healthcare directive, outlines your preferences for medical treatment in case you become unable to communicate. While it is not a substitute for a regular will, having both documents can provide comprehensive coverage for your wishes, both regarding your property and your medical care.

How do I store my will, and who should have a copy?

It’s crucial to store your will in a safe and easily accessible place. Some common options include a safe deposit box, a personal safe, or with your attorney. Inform your executor, family members, or a trusted friend about the location, and consider providing copies to them. However, it’s essential to keep the original in a secure location.

Can I include funeral and burial instructions in my will in New York?

While it is not legally required to include funeral and burial instructions in your will, you can do so to communicate your preferences. However, keep in mind that wills are often not read until after the funeral, so it’s essential to share these wishes with family members or in a separate document.

Can I leave property to my pets in my will in New York?

Yes, in New York, you can include provisions for the care of your pets in your will. This may involve leaving assets to a designated caregiver along with instructions on how you want your pets to be cared for.

Can I create a joint will with my spouse in New York?

New York does not recognize joint wills. Each individual should have their own separate will.

Are holographic wills valid in New York?

No, New York does not recognize holographic wills. The will must be in writing and meet the formal witnessing requirements.

What is a self-proving affidavit, and is it required?

A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement attached to the will, signed by the testator and witnesses. While not mandatory, it can simplify the probate process.

Speak to a Long Island Will Lawyer Today

Understanding the intricacies of creating a will in New York is essential for anyone seeking to plan their estate. While the process may seem complex, seeking professional guidance from a Long Island will lawyer can simplify the journey and ensure that your wishes are carried out as intended. 

As circumstances may vary, consulting with an attorney is recommended to tailor your will to your specific needs and ensure compliance with New York state laws. Contact us for immediate assistance.