and Your Family
Suffolk County Holographic Will
A last will and testament is one of the most common and arguably most important estate documents. With a will you can leave directions as to how your estate is to be distributed upon your death. It allows you to retain control over who gets the various portions of your estate. Because of the importance of a will, New York has very strict rule related to how it must be written and executed. These requirements are in place to minimize the possibilities that fraudulent wills are probated. However, a holographic will is a special type of will that does not have to meet the usual execution requirements if it is executed under specific circumstances. Under New York law, there are special rules that determine whether or not a holographic will will be accepted as legally sufficient. In order to ensure that your will as well as any other estate planning document that you draft is legally sufficient, it is wise to consult an experienced Suffolk County holographic will lawyer who will explain to you what is required to draft and execute a valid will in New York.Requirements for a valid will in New York
The following are the general requirements for a valid will in New York:
- Testator must be at least 18 years old
- Testator must not suffer from a mental incapacity
- Testator must not have been under duress or subject to undue influence
- Will must be in writing
- Testator must sign the will
- Two competent witnesses must have been present when the testator signed the will
An exception to New York's formal requirements of execution is the holographic will. Under New York Estate, Powers, and Trust Law § 3-2.2, a holographic will, also referred to as an olographic will, is a last will and testament that has been entirely handwritten by the testator and was not attested to by witnesses. This type of will is consistent with New York’s strict rules for executing a will that are designed to make prevent fraudulent wills from being probated.
A holographic will poses proof problems since no one witnessed the testator drafting it or signing it. If the will is contested, there would be no “eyewitnesses” to testify about the authenticity of the will and the state of mind of the testator at the time the will was executed. However, because of the unique circumstances members of the armed forces may find themselves in, a holographic will will be considered valid only in the limited circumstance where it is written by a member of the United States armed forces or someone accompanying a member of the armed forces during a time of conflict. Unlike traditional wills, holographic wills are not valid forever—or until the testator revokes it. If the testator does not pass away within 1 year after the testator ceases serving with the armed forces, the holographic will automatically becomes invalid.
As an experienced an experienced Suffolk County holographic will lawyer will explain, this means that if you are not in the armed forces and decide to jot down on a piece of paper who gets your property after you pass away, you will have failed to create a legally effective holographic will.
While holographic wills are typically not valid in New York, there are other jurisdictions that allow holographic wills under wider circumstances. If a testator executed a holographic will in another jurisdiction, if the holographic will was valid in that jurisdiction, and if the testator was a resident of that jurisdiction at the time he (or she) executed the will, then New York will admit the will to probate.Nuncupative will
Another type of will that is sometimes valid even though not created and executed according law is a nuncupative will. A nuncupative will is an oral will. Like a holographic will, in New York a nuncupative will is only valid when made by a member of the United States armed forces during a time of conflict, someone accompanying a member of the armed forces, or a mariner at sea. Under New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law § 3-2.2, in order to be valid under those circumstances a nuncupative will must be witnessed by at least two people.
Nuncupative wills and holographic wills allow individuals whose lives are in peril to make a will without the normal formalities. Those who are in the military in the middle of a conflict do not have the luxury of being able to draft a will on a computer. On the other hand people who are not in the military during a time of conflict typically have the time and access to the resources to draft and execute a will in the manner required by New York law. If your will is a holographic will or a nuncupative will, contact an experienced Suffolk County holographic will lawyer, as it is important that you execute a new will as soon as possible.Other types of wills
In addition to holographic wills and nuncupative wills there are other types of wills that while created with specific terms and features, still must be executed according to the standard requirements of New York estate law. For example, a joint will is a single will that covers the estates of two or more people. This type of will is often used by spouses. Typically testators who make a joint will have decided to dispose of their estates in the exact same way. The spouse that passes away first leaves the bulk of his or her estate to the surviving spouse. The testators agree what would then happen to the remainder of the estate when the second spouse passes away. If the couple has children, the remainder may be left to the children. Or, the couple may agree that the remainder will go to a charitable organization. Sometimes such wills are crafted in such a way that should the surviving spouse remarry, he or she would not be able to leave the remainder of the estate to the new spouse.
Spouses can accomplish the same goals with mutual wills. Mutual wills, however, involve two people making separate wills, but the terms are similar. Each will will provide that the testator leaves the bulk of his or her estate to the other spouse. Other terms of the will be also be complementary.
While joint wills and mutual wills are often made by spouses, they can be made by any two people such as unmarried couples, siblings, business associates, or any two people who decided that they want to coordinate certain aspects of their estate planning.
To learn more about the type of will that best fits your needs, contact a skilled Suffolk County holographic will lawyer.Lack of a valid will
One of the reasons that New York permits holographic and nuncupative wills is to ensure that people in perilous conditions do not pass away without making a will. The consequences of doing so are that your estate may not be distributed in the manner that you prefer. If you do not have a will, the court will determine how your estate is to be distributed based on New York intestacy laws. NY EPTL § 4-1.1. In other words, you have no control over who gets your property.
Under intestacy your spouse and your children will be taken care in that the law requires that your spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of your estate, plus 50% of the balance. The remaining portion of your estate will be distributed in equal shares to your children. If you do not have children, your spouse will get your entire estate, while if you do not have a surviving spouse but you have children, your children will share equally in your entire estate.
If you do not have a spouse or children, then you estate will go to your parents, siblings, followed by other blood relatives, depending on who survives you. If you wanted to leave property to people who are not relatives such as an army buddy, a best friend, an employee, or a charity, you would have to leave a will, as this is not possible under the laws of intestate succession. To learn more about New York’s intestacy rules, contact an experienced holographic will attorney in Suffolk County.
While a court will admit a holographic or a nuncupative under specific circumstances, once those circumstances no longer exist, these types of wills lose their validity. If such a will is made by a member of the armed forces, it will become invalid one year after his or her discharge from the armed forces. If a nuncupative or holographic will is made by a person who accompanies armed forces, it will become invalid one year from the time he or she has ceased accompanying such armed force. If made by a mariner at sea, the will becomes invalid three years the time will was made. NY EPTL § 3-2.2(c)
If the testator who made a valid holographic or nuncupative will fails to make a new will once the holographic or nuncupative becomes invalid, then when upon passing away that will will be ignored and his or her estate will pass based on the laws of intestacy.
Keep in mind that without effective estate planning, there are additional consequences in addition to your assets not being left to people of your choosing. If you do not specify in a will who should be the guardian of your minor children, they may end up being raised by a person that you would not want to raise them. If you do not plan for the possibility that in the future you may become incapacitated by an accident or illness, then the court may have to step in and appoint a conservator to make decisions about your healthcare and finances.
The best way to maintain control over what happens to you, your property, your finances and your family members is to not put off making a comprehensive estate plan.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Under most circumstances holographic wills and nuncupative wills are not valid in New York. If you have a handwritten will or an oral will, in order to ensure that your wishes will be followed after you pass away it is critical that you draft and execute a new will that is in compliance with the standard requirements of New York Estates, Powers and Trusts law. The experienced holographic will attorneys serving Suffolk County at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience drafting wills and other estate documents and can help you write an executed a will that is in compliance with New York law. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Suffolk County, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, and Long Island.