Creating a will is often one of the most important parts of the estate planning process. Having a will in place when you pass away gives you the power to decide how to distribute your assets and help speed up the probate process for your family when it comes time to administer your estate. However, creating a will is not as simple as writing down who will get what when you pass away. For a will to be legally valid, it needs to meet certain criteria.
In New York, the person writing the will, or testator, must be at least 18 years of age and be of ‘sound mind and memory.’ The will itself must be signed or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of at least two other people. If the testator cannot sign the will, another person chosen by the testator can sign the will on behalf of the testator, if the testator is present. The witnesses also must sign their names and addresses on the will within 30 days of each other.
A handwritten will, or holographic will, is only valid if the testator is a member of the armed services and the will is made during an armed conflict, and if the will is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting. Oral wills are also valid if made by service members during an armed conflict.
In addition to meeting the basic criteria, you will want to make sure that your will addresses everything you need it to. If you are a parent to minor children, you may use your will to name a guardian for them once you have passed away. You will also be able to assign your assets to your heirs by making sure you clearly describe each piece of property and specifying who gets what. By creating a will, you can disinherit certain individuals who would be set to inherit your estate if you died without a will. Also, keep in mind that wills are not just for high-value assets, but also sentimental ones that have personal meaning.
Your will is one of the most important documents you will create during your lifetime, so it is important that you do it right. An estate planning and probate attorney in your area can ensure that your will contains all necessary information and can help you update or modify your will as needed.