Execution of a New York Will Needs to Comply With Statutory Requirements

It is important for a New York domiciliary to engage is proper estate planning.  A lot of time and effort usually goes into creating a Last Will, Living Trust, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and other planning initiatives.  It is always a tragedy when a well thought out estate is thwarted by errors relating to ambiguous or defective Will or Trust provisions or defective execution procedures.

The New York Surrogate’s Courts are filled with cases involving Contested Wills.  Estate Litigation surrounding the preparation and execution of a Will not only disrupts the testator’s estate plan, it delays the settlement of an estate.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed the requirements for executing a Last Will.  Statutory requirements are contained in Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements”.  When the guidelines of the statute are not explicitly complied with, the validity of the document may be questioned.  Unless a Will is validated by the Surrogate’s Court and admitted to probate, the provisions and dispositions in the Will are not mandated to be followed.  Even a slight variation can cause controversy.

A recent Dutchess Estate case entitled Estate of Kearney, decided by Dutchess Surrogate Michael G. Hayes on March 20, 2019, shows the problems that can be created by not explicitly following the directions of EPTL section 3-2.1.

In Kearney, the testator signed his Will at the bottom of the first page and put his initials on the bottom of the second page and signed the third page after the last Will provision but above the attestation clause.  After reviewing the language of the statute, the Court admitted the Will to probate.  It was determined that the signature that appeared after the last dispositive provision was sufficient.  The fact that the decedent signed on the bottom of the first page or placed his initials on the second page was in furtherance of, rather than contrary to, the validity of the Will.

I have represented many individuals in connection with probating Wills.  Additionally, I have helped clients prepare estate plans and have supervised the execution of many Wills.  Call me now if you have a question regarding probate or Will preparation.  All initial inquiries are free.  We offer reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including the Bronx and Brooklyn.   If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.

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