While most people care about leaving their family in the best financial shape possible, only half of all Americans have a will. Gallup polls suggest the older a person gets the more likely they will have a will or other estate plan. In fact, more than 70% of Americans ages 50 or older have a will compared to 37% of those under 50.
You don’t need to be married with children or well off financially to provide for your loved ones. There is no reason to delay setting up a will — these documents aren’t set in stone and you can always change your mind. Fortunately, a will may be amended or revoked. A new will supersedes the previous one.
NY State Will Requirements
When you have your will prepared, it is crucial that you do it right. New York law provides several important requirements for the will to be valid, including:
- The witnessing requirement. New York law requires that your will be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses. There are some very stringent requirements for the witnesses and their signatures under New York law which is why it is important to consult with an attorney for both the drafting and signing (“execution“) of this document.
- Specific and accurate language. The language in the will must be precise. A seemingly innocent error can cause the entire document to be interpreted differently from what you intended. The language used should also take into account that a will hopefully will not be probated until many years after it is written, when circumstances have changed.
- Safeguard the original document. Although New York law provides a method to allow a copy of a will to be probated if the original cannot be found, this method requires proving to the court that the will was properly made and not revoked. Many people leave their original will with their attorney so it can be easily located by the family.
A will is an essential estate planning tool by itself or as part of a larger estate plan. Consult with an experienced Staten Island estate planning attorney to be sure that your will is valid and accurately states your desires. Equally important, review your estate plan on an annual basis and update it as needed.