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Does New York law recognize holographic wills?

A holographic will is essentially a will hand-written by a person, known as the testator, for the benefit of others after he or she dies. Old movies were notorious for using scenes of characters creating holographic wills. Perhaps you remember a Western in which a cowboy is mortally wounded by an arrow to the chest then scrawls out his dying wishes onto his saddle using a knife.

Much like those old movies, the use of the holographic will has faded into history. Generally speaking, the formation of a holographic will today is not considered valid except under very specific circumstances. New York Law, EPTA section 3-2.2. sets forth the following requirements:

--The testator must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old.

--The will must be handwritten in its entirety. For example, portions of the will cannot be typed or printed and still considered a holographic will.

-- New York State law only recognizes holographic wills formed by members of the U. S. Armed Forces.

-- Those members of the U. S. Armed Forces who are eligible to form a holographic will are only permitted to do so while they are currently serving in a conflict.

-- A holographic will can also be formed by another person who is also serving with or accompanying the testator and acting on their behalf at the formation of the will.

-- A holographic will becomes invalid after a period of one year from its formation. After that time, the testator will be determined to have died intestate (without a will) if no other will has been created.

As you can see, the holographic will offers very little protection and is permitted under New York law primarily to offer servicemembers a way to enshrine the distribution of their assets and property under emergency conditions.

If you are a New York resident currently without a will, you should know that the formation of a document which will preserve your wishes after your death is essential and relatively easy. In some cases, only a brief consult with your attorney can appropriately enshrine your estate planning wishes in a manner recognized by state law.

Source: Law of New York-New York State Legislature, "EPT - Estates, Powers and Trusts- Section 3-2.2" Sep. 08, 2014

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