How to Execute a Will in New York Properly

A Will is a written instruction manual for disposing of your assets. It is a document that overrides the New York State default rules for disposing of a person’s assets after their death. In order for a Will to be given effect, the will must be properly Executed. This often begs the question: how to execute a Will?

 Where Does the Testator Need to Sign?

In order for a Will to be properly executed, The person making the Will (the “testator”) must sign at the end of the document. If there are bequests or information below the signature, the Court will ignore anything below the signature line. 

how to execute a Will

Do I Need Witnesses to See How to Execute a Will in New York?

Yes, you need witnesses to execute a Will in New York. The rules for execution of Wills are set forth in EPTL 3-2.1. Pursuant to EPTL 3-2.1, the Will must be witnessed by at least two witnesses. Interestingly, however, the witnesses do not have to sign the Will at exactly the same time as each other. Nor do the witnesses have to sign at the same time as the testator. Instead, the testator can either sign in front of the witnesses or acknowledge to the witness or witnesses that the instrument is his Will. The testator can sign and then acknowledge the signature to the witnesses at a later point in time. The witnesses must sign within thirty (30) days of the testator signing. The witnesses do not need to know each other. They do not have to have met before. 

In one example, a Will was considered improperly executed where a hospital technician was cleaning the bathroom and was asked to come sign a document. The technician had no idea what he was signing and the testator did not tell the technician what was being signed. The technician was also never shown the testator’s signature. 

Do I Need Somebody to Show me How to Execute a Will? 

Technically you do not need anybody to show you how to execute a Will. You can Execute the Will on your own but you do need some witnesses. Any person can be a witness. However, if the witness to the Will is also a beneficiary under the Will, and that Will becomes questioned, the witness will need to forego their bequest under the Will in order for the Will to be admitted to probate

Do I Need to Say or do Anything Special in Order to Execute a Will in New York?

While there is no special dance or song or magic words, the testator needs to do something to publish the Will. That is, the testator must either say or demonstrate through actions, that the instrument that is being signed is the Will. The testator must make clear to the witnesses that the document being signed is a Will and not just any ordinary document. The witnesses must walk away from the signing believing that they are witnessing a Will being signed so that the incident can hopefully stick out in their minds. 

Do I Need a Notary to Show me How Execute a Will in New York?

A notary is not needed for the signing of the actual Will. A notary is, however, required, if the witnesses are going to be signing a document known as the “Self-Proving Affidavit.”

Do I Need to Register the Will with a Court After I have Executed it?

In New York, there is no official place to register Wills. If a testator wants, they can file the Will with the Surrogate’s Court of the County where they reside for safekeeping. The testator can also keep the Will among their possessions, preferable in a fire proof vault. The testator can also leave the Will with the attorney who drafted it. It is typically not advisable for the testator to keep the Will among their possessions because if the testator dies with the Will among their possessions and the Will cannot thereafter be found, there is a strong presumption in New York Law that the testator intended to revoke the instrument. 

Why is it Important for me to know How to Execute a Will in New York?

It is important to properly execute your Will so that the Will can be admitted to probate and so that your beneficiaries can avoid a Will contest as to the question of due execution. 

We can help ensure that your Will is properly drafted and executed. Contact us to learn more. 

For more information, please contact Guardianship, probate and estate planning attorney Regina Kiperman:

Phone: 917-261-4514

Email: rkiperman@rklawny.com

Or visit her at her office:

80 Maiden Lane

Suite 304

New York, NY 10038

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