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Do you need witnesses for your New York will?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2022 | Probate |

If you take the time and exert the energy to create a will, then you want the documents to hold up under legal scrutiny after you die. Your will ensures that your executor and the New York probate courts understand what you want to happen with your property or who you want to care for your minor children.

It is important that you understand that not every will is valid and enforceable according to New York law. You have to be careful not to include terms that violate state law and that the documents you create comply with probate laws.

The law seeks to prevent fraud

Wills and estate plans have historically been documents that people will happily falsify. Creating a fraudulent will or modifying an existing one for personal benefit could be a way for one person to take more than their fair share of another person’s estate.

If all that a document needed was a signature to be valid, there would be a serious risk of people forging signatures for personal gain. To protect testators and their possible beneficiaries from fraud, New York imposes a witness requirements on wills.

You need two separate witnesses

Under New York law, an adult creating a will requires at least two other adults to serve as witnesses who can verify their identity and confirm they were of sound mind at the time of the signing. Ideally, those witnesses will not be the primary beneficiaries of the document.

Some people bring in professional witnesses, such as a paralegal who works at an attorney’s office and a notary, to avoid any conflict of interest that might arise when using friends or family members as witnesses. 

DIY estate plan can leave you vulnerable

Trying to download a digital will online and use that document could be a mistake. Not only could the document itself be non-compliant with New York probate laws, but this scenario in which you sign it may fall short of the legal standard as well.

When you work with an attorney, you will have protection from using the wrong documents or including terms that might invalidate your estate plan. Additionally, you can create documents that more closely align with your wishes and increase the chances of achieving your desired outcome.

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