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Holographic Wills in New York

A holographic will, also known as a handwritten will, is a type of will that is entirely handwritten by the testator and is not witnessed. While some states do not recognize holographic wills, in New York, holographic wills are recognized under certain conditions, but they must meet strict requirements to be considered valid. While holographic wills can be a convenient and cost-effective option for estate planning, they can also be more prone to errors, ambiguities, and challenges in court. Individuals who are considering creating a holographic will in New York should be aware of the legal requirements, and may benefit from seeking the guidance of an experienced New York estate planning lawyer to ensure their will is properly executed and enforced.

Holographic Wills and the Armed Forces

In New York, a holographic will can be a valid legal document under certain circumstances. Under New York law, a holographic will created by a member of the armed forces is only valid if it meets certain additional requirements. These requirements are set forth in New York's Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL). Specifically, EPTL §3-2.2 provides that a holographic will created by a member of the armed forces is valid only if it meets the following conditions:

  • The will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator;
  • The will must be signed by the testator at the end; and
  • The will must be executed in compliance with the testator's military service.

This means that if a member of the armed forces wishes to create a valid holographic will in New York, they must comply with these additional requirements. Failure to do so can result in the will being deemed invalid.

It is important to note that these requirements only apply to members of the armed forces. For non-military individuals, a holographic will must still be entirely in the testator's handwriting and signed by the testator in order to be valid under New York law.

Notable New York Cases Involving Holographic Wills
  • In re Noichl, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 3558 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022). The case revolves around the probate of Anton Georg Noichl's holographic wills. Anton, a musician with properties in various locations, executed multiple wills, including a 2008 holographic will naming the petitioner as executor. The pivotal question arises regarding Anton's domicile, impacting the validity of the holographic will. The Surrogate's Court denies probate based on Anton's alleged New Jersey domicile. The appellate court reverses the decision, emphasizing an incomplete record and the need for further proceedings. The case underscores the significance of domicile, especially in probating holographic wills, and highlights the complexity surrounding unique circumstances, such as Anton's perpetual travel.
  • In re Estate of Gehr, 984 N.Y.S.2d 746 (N.Y. App. Div. 2014). The respondent moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that it failed to state a cause of action, citing CPLR 3211(a)(7) and SCPA 102. The respondent contended that the 2012 will was holographic and therefore ineligible for probate. Objecting to the probate of the 2012 will, the respondent alleged forgery, improper execution, lack of testamentary capacity, and undue influence. The Surrogate's Court rejected affidavits of attesting witnesses due to objections filed and the absence of attorney supervision, deeming the 2012 will, while handwritten, not holographic. The Surrogate also found it non-testamentary, referencing a clause stating its effect preceding the decedent's death. Consequently, the court granted the respondent's motion to dismiss the petition.
Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Contingent wills can provide an effective way for individuals to plan for unexpected events and ensure that their assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes. Whether you are concerned about the possibility of a beneficiary passing away before you or you want to provide for certain conditions in your will, a contingent will can help you achieve your estate planning goals. However, it is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney serving New York to create a valid and effective contingent will that meets all of the legal requirements in New York. With the right guidance and support, you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Nassau County, Queens, Manhattan, Long Island, Brooklyn, Suffolk County, Westchester County, Staten Island, and Bronx.

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