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Can I have a handwritten will in New York?

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Estate Planning

You may have seen a film where a family is gathered around a table, and everyone is waiting to see a handwritten or typed will read aloud. You may have also heard things like, “Just write something down on a napkin and sign it. That would work for courts, right?”

Is this true? When you want to create a will, can you just write your wishes by hand and have that serve as a legal will document for New York probate court?

Can I just write my own will by hand?

Yes, a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is legal under some very limited circumstances. However, New York law is very specific about the circumstances under which a handwritten will can be recognized, and these are very limited indeed.

There are two types of people who can get away with a handwritten will:

  • A member of the U.S. armed forces during a war, declared or undeclared (or a person accompanying the armed forces during such a conflict). This type of will can be considered valid is considered invalid one year after the person leaves the armed forces
  • A marine worker while at sea. This type of will becomes invalid after three years.

There are some other requirements as well.

Other estate planning options

If the idea of a piece of paper in a home cabinet or safe makes you nervous, there are many options for estate planning based on your unique circumstances and assets. Attorneys help clients to get all the formalities correct so that their plans can be considered valid when the time comes.