A will is a formal document that allows individuals to determine how their possessions will be distributed upon death. It requires very specific actions to be taken to prove the validity of its contents. Failure to meet those requirements may thwart the maker’s intentions.
New York requires a will to be signed by the person making it, or signed on his or her behalf by another at the individual’s direction. There must be two witnesses, who must personally attest to it and observe the signing. However, they may sign within 30 days of the original signature if the individual personally tells them that the signature is in fact his or hers. The witnesses may sign at different times, but both must sign within 30 days of the individual’s signature.
No agency reviews and approves wills, so any problems will not come to light until after the person’s death. The will is offered to the court for probate after the death of its maker. Before the estate is distributed, the court must be shown that the will is valid. If the will has only one witness, or if the witnesses signed at a later date than the individual and there is no evidence that the testator affirmed to the witnesses that it was in fact her signature on the will, then the will may not be accepted. If the will is determined to be invalid, then the estate will be distributed in accordance with intestacy laws, which may not comport with the wishes of the decedent.
While the concept of a will is simple, the requirements are strict. Working with an attorney is a suggested way to ensure that the estate owner’s wishes are carried out.
Source: Findlaw, ” Section 3-2.1: Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements “, October 08, 2014