A will specifies who will inherit your property, who will take care of your minor children, who will administer your estate and how your debts and taxes will be paid.
You can include any property that you own solely or jointly. You can also include any personal or sentimental items. You can also specify any charitable donations or gifts. You should also decide whom you want to name as your beneficiaries, meaning the people who will inherit your property.
Children and spouses
However, you should be aware that New York law protects the rights of your surviving spouse and children. For example, if you leave your spouse out of your will or give them less than what they would receive by law, they can claim their elective share of your estate, which is one-third of your net estate if you have children or one-half if you do not.
Similarly, if you have minor children, they are entitled to a family allowance of $25,000 or one-third of the net estate (whichever is less) until they reach 18 years old.
You should also decide who you want to name as your executor, i.e., the person who will carry out the instructions in your will and handle the probate process. You can name anyone you trust, such as a relative, friend or professional. However, they must be at least 18 and not convicted of a felony. You should also name an alternate.
You can write your own will using a template or software program, or you can hire a lawyer. Either way, you should make sure that your will must be in writing, signed by you, witnessed by at least two people who are not beneficiaries or executors and state that it is your last will and testament and revoke any previous ones. You should also include a self-proving affidavit with your will.
You should also inform your executor and beneficiaries of its location and contents. You can keep your original will at home in a fireproof box or safe, or you can deposit it with the Surrogate’s Court in the county where you live for a nominal fee. You should also make copies of your will and give them to trusted people or keep them in other secure locations. Do not forget to periodically review your will to make needed updates.