Writing a will is not that difficult. But there are requirements you need to follow to write a valid will. If you fail to meet these requirements, your will may be challenged, setting up a nasty will contest that could tear apart your friends and family.
Of course planning for your whole estate to be distributed after you death can be complicated. However, when it comes down to it, a will has some pretty easy to understand requirements for it to be considered enforceable by the court.
Here are the three main New York will requirements:
- Write the will. The will must be in writing to be valid. It doesn't matter if it's typed or written on a napkin. Only in very rare circumstances is an oral or unwitnessed/unsigned will valid. These circumstances include wills drafted by members of the armed services actually in combat and mariners lost at sea. So unless you're fighting or drifting, write out your will.
- Sign the will and sign it at the very bottom. You need to sign the will for it to be valid. Additionally, if you don't sign at the very bottom, you may invalidate everything. For example, if you have terms, clauses, or explanations following your signature line, that may invalidate everything you wrote above the signature line and no effect may be given to terms you add after you had already signed the will. Basically, not signing on the very bottom of the will could have the same effect as not signing the will at all -- complete invalidation.
- Get witnesses to your signing. You must sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses should also sign the will acknowledging that they saw you sign it. You don't need to be best friends with your witnesses, or even know them, you just need someone to say they saw you sign it.
There are only three New York will requirements. Make sure you comply with all three. Or better yet, talk to a New York estate planning attorney to make sure your will is valid, legal and can be enforced.