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What Happens if a Witness to my Will Dies or Cannot be Found?

As I have stated in many previous blogs pertaining to wills, in order for a Last Will & Testament in New York to be valid, it must be witnessed by at least 2 witnesses. The purpose of the witness requirement is to ensure that at the time the Will was executed, the testator was of sound mind and not under any undue influence or coercion. A Last Will & Testament which was executed according to the formalities and properly witnessed will remain valid unless revoked, even after a witness has passed on.

You may be asking yourself, why then, would it matter if a witness dies or cannot be found? Well upon probating a will, having a validly witnessed will becomes very important, particularly if there is a will contest because you will have to prove to the court that the signature of the witnesses is real.

One way to do this is to have witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit at the execution ceremony. A self-proving affidavit is a document signed by the witness under penalty of perjury that says the testator signed the will, did so with a sound mind and signed freely.

Without the self-proving affidavit, if a witness cannot be found or has since passed, it becomes harder to prove to the judge that witness signatures are authentic, which results in added expenses for the testator’s family.

To discuss your Last Will & Testament, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.