Requirements for wills in New York

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Wills |

Adults need to have a valid will in place so that their loved ones know what to do with their assets after they die. This is a document that can provide those instructions in enforceable ways. As is the case with every state, there are specific requirements for creating a valid will in New York.

Understanding the criteria for a will to be valid can help adults to better ensure that their wishes will be honored after they die.

Age and mental capacity

The person creating the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Being of sound mind means that the testator understands the nature of making a will, knows the extent of their assets and recognizes the beneficiaries to whom they are leaving their estate.

Written document

A valid will in New York must be in writing. While some states recognize oral wills under specific circumstances, New York generally doesn’t. The document can be typed or handwritten, but it must clearly outline the testator’s intentions regarding how their assets should be distributed after their death. Handwritten, or “holographic,” wills are typically subject to stricter scrutiny and may not be valid unless they meet specific conditions.

Signature of the testator

The will must be signed by the testator or by another person under the testator’s direction in the testator’s presence. This signature is critical to the will because it signifies the testator’s approval and acceptance of the document’s contents as their final wishes. The signature should ideally be at the end of the will to demonstrate that the testator agrees to all the provisions contained within the document.


New York law requires that at least two witnesses observe the testator signing the will, or the testator must acknowledge their signature to the witnesses within 30 days. The witnesses must understand that the document they are signing is intended to be the testator’s will. After witnessing the signature, the witnesses must also sign the will to attest to the testator’s capacity and voluntary signing. These witnesses should be disinterested parties who don’t stand to benefit from the will.

A will is only one element of a comprehensive estate plan. Getting a full estate plan together generally requires the assistance of a legal representative who can explain options and get everything set in a legally enforceable manner.