There are many requirements in New York estate law concerning the proper execution of a Last Will and Testament. The basic statute setting forth these rules is Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (“EPTL”) section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements”. The validity of a Will requires that a testator sign the Will at the end and that there be two attesting witnesses.
When the statutory formalities to execute a Will are not adhered to there may be estate litigation when the document is presented for probate. An interested party may file Objections to the Will that result in a Will Contest. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many articles concerning estate administration and the probating of Wills.
A Will can be changed or revised as many times as a person desires to do so. However, there are also certain requirements that must followed in order to accomplish a successful revocation. EPTL section 3-4.1 entitled “Revocation of Wills; effect on codicils” contain rules regarding revocation. The statute says that a Will can be revoked or changed by executing another Will or by certain acts of mutilation or obliteration.
There are many instances where individuals may want to change their Wills but fail to comply with the statutory mandates. For example, it is usually improper to just make handwritten changes on some provisions of a duly executed Will. Unless the changes are made and witnessed in the manner required for the proper execution of a Will, the Court typically ignores the changes and admits the Will to probate in its original form.
I recently had occasion to represent clients in a Manhattan estate case who sought to admit a Will to probate where the decedent had made handwritten changes to some, but not all, of the provisions. The name of the case was Estate of Mandel. It was decided on August 15, 2019 by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson. In Mandel the decedent had executed a valid Will but then later on made handwritten changes on 9 of 27 pages and in 7 of the 15 Will articles.
The Court granted summary judgment to the petitioners (my clients) and admitted the Will to probate in its original form. It was found that the partial changes did not constitute a complete obliteration of the Will or its vital parts. Since the statutory formalities were not followed, the Court said that the intent of the testator in making the changes was not to be considered.
As can be seen from Mandel, it is very important to create and change Wills, as well as other important documents, according to estate and trust law requirements. I have represented many individuals in contested probate and administration cases. Call me now if you have a question or issue concerning a trust or estate. 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, Brooklyn and Manhattan. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.