Stony Brook, NY asked in Estate Planning for New York

Q: Is a completely handwritten will that is witnessed and notarized without a lawyer, still a halographic will?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Gregory J. Tarone
Gregory J. Tarone
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Mount Kisco, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: No, not because it is handwritten. That is style, not substantive. New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Sec. 3-2.1(b) addresses the informality of statutory execution, acknowledgement, attestation and notarization, which must be strictly fulfilled in their policy substance as recognized under New York law but not prohibiting handwriting instead of a typed document. What is called a "holographic" will is one that is handwritten and signed but does not meet all the attestation and verifying statutory requirements. It is usually done in haste or misunderstanding of the law. Handwriting the will does not make it automatically holographic and there is nothing prohibiting it. Not satisfying the pertinent jurisdiction's execution standards so the will can be submitted to probate makes it holographic if it is handwritten and signed but does not meet all the statutory requirements. Witnesses’ notarized attestation is very significant, but admissible without it in certain special circumstances -- e.g. military in war – when a handwritten and signed will is recognized. If the court can understand the will as handwritten and it otherwise satisfies EPTL 3-2.1(a) requirements, it should be admissible into probate in a New York Surrogate's Court.

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