Does New York law recognize holographic wills?

by | Sep 10, 2014 | 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