Because every state has its own requirements related to the validity of a will, newcomers to New York should pay careful attention to these details. Neglecting to properly execute a will could result in probate complications as well as challenges from heirs. A recent case in Tennessee, for example, resulted in the wishes of the testator being successfully challenged by his son. Although the man obtained witnesses and had them complete and sign a self-proving affidavit, the witnesses failed to sign the actual will.
In the Tennessee case, strict compliance requirements were used to declare the will in question invalid. Some states might have accepted the same will as valid due to substantial compliance. Common requirements that must be observed in will execution include ensuring that enough witnesses are involved and that their ages meet state requirements. Additionally, a will cannot be executed by an individual who does not have the mental capacity to do so. The manner of handling a will’s execution may be evaluated by the courts to ensure that the document has not been created under duress. Further, individuals who stand to gain from a testator’s death are not typically acceptable as witnesses.
Legal support can be important in ensuring that a will meets appropriate criteria. A lawyer may recommend a mention of any prior wills in a new version so that there is no question if a different document turns up after the testator expires. Further, a lawyer may provide clients with the ability to safely store their wills so that there is no worry about tampering or snooping.
People who have recently moved to a new state might want to have their wills reviewed by a local attorney to ensure that any discrepancies between state law and the document are addressed. Further, annual review of a will or estate plan is a strategy for ensuring that major life events are properly addressed within the legal documents.