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Is a signed handwritten will valid?

After my grandpa died we discovered that his will was hand written. It is signed by two unrelated people (family friend and pastor). Is this a legal document in the state of New York? There are no disputes amongst the family members and everyone is happy with the property division in the will.
Status: Open    Feb 06, 2016 - 01:49 PM

Elder Law

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Feb 15, 2016 - 08:06 AM

I am not a New York attorney so please confirm this with an elder law or probate attorney in New York. I believe that is a valid Will. Probate action may require that the witnesses appear and testify that they did witness your father sign the Will. If no one contests the Will that will help. You definately need to see a New York attorney.


Feb 23, 2016 - 06:54 PM

A truly hand written will, which is called a holographic will, is only valid in a few states. Unfortunately these are not valid in the state of New York unless the handwritten will is made by (a) a member of the armed forces while in service during war or armed conflict; (b) a person who serves with or accompanies an armed force during war or armed conflict; or (c) by a mariner at sea. In these cases a holographic will must be signed by two witnesses and becomes invalid one year after discharge if made by an armed forces member and three years after it was made by a mariner.

Assuming that you grandfather’s handwritten will does not meet the above guidelines, then you grandfather passed away in essence without a will and is “intestate”. The laws of intestacy for the state of New York will determine the distribution of his estate. Without getting in to too much detail, if your grandfather is survived by a spouse as well as descendants, then the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus one-half of the remaining property, and the descendants inherit the rest.

Probate in New York is a fairly complicated process. It would be beneficial to retain the services of an elder law attorney to help navigate the maze.
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