Adults over age 18 can make wills in New York if they are of sound mind and memory. Two witnesses must observe the signature made on the will. They must also print their names and addresses and sign. Oral wills are accepted from members of the armed forces who are deployed. Handwritten wills are valid if written entirely in the handwriting of the person making the will.
Wills can address many estate planning needs such as setting forth who will receive funds and property, who will be the executor or executors and who will be custodians and guardians. Some estate planning must be accomplished in other ways, however. For example, some things that can not be accomplished in a will are:
- Leaving certain kinds of property
- Property you hold in certain ways does not pass through a will: joint tenancy with someone else, or in “tenancy by the entirety,” or “community property with right of survivorship”
- Property in a living trust
- Life insurance policy proceeds
- Pension plans, individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, or other retirement plans
- Property held in transfer-on-death form -this may include stocks, bonds, real estate or vehicles
- Money in a payable-on-death bank account
- Leave Funeral Instructions – make a separate document spelling out your wishes and tell your executor where to find it.
- Reduce Estate Taxes
- Avoid Probate
- Put Certain Conditions on Gifts – you cannot leave a gift that is contingent on the marriage, divorce, or change of religion of a recipient.
- Leave Money for an Illegal Purpose
- Arrange to Care for a Beneficiary With Special Needs – you could set up a special needs trust for the beneficiary’s needs.
If you require assistance with preparing a will or setting up arrangements to address any matters that must be arranged for outside of a will, contact an experienced estate planning attorney.