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Requirements for legally binding wills

When it comes to estate planning and the documents included, state laws vary. For that reason, New York residents must comply with specific requirements when signing wills. If the required formalities and legalities are not followed, the court might disregard the validity of a will and subject the estate to intestacy laws. Having a valid will is important to ensure one's final wishes are met.

Some general requirements for valid wills include the need for the person drafting the document to be older than 18 years or emancipated by a court. Marriage or joining the military can also move a person under the age of 18 beyond the control of the parents. He or she must have testamentary capacity, which means he or she requires a sound mind and a full understanding of the terms included in the will and the relationships with the beneficiaries.

The maker of the will must sign the document in his or her own handwriting, or an appointed person can sign if the testator is not physically able to sign it. Most states require the witnessing signatures of at least two witnesses. However, these witnesses are typically required to be disinterested parties and not beneficiaries to the will.

Any person in New York who wants to have the final say about the distribution of his or her assets upon death can seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Even those individuals who want to draft their own wills can ask a lawyer to review it. Occasional reviews of estate planning documents will help to keep them current and in tune with life's changes.

Source: thebalance.com, "Is Your Last Will and Testament Legally Binding?", Julie Garber, May 12, 2018

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