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What Happens if My Spouse Had a Handwritten Will?

A handwritten or holographic will is a will that is written in the own handwriting of a testator. New York law recognizes holographic wills under limited circumstances. For instance, New York law will accept the holographic will of someone who is in the armed services and may be engaged in a conflict or emergency situation requiring the writing of a handwritten will. However, the will is only considered valid for one year from the date it is made. It is always recommended that the maker of a holographic will sign and date a will so that there is less chance of the will being declared invalid or an heir contesting it.

In situations where a spouse is not in the armed services and makes a holographic will in another state that recognizes holographic wills, the will may or may not be recognized as valid under New York law depending on certain circumstances since there are various legal formalities in the way a will must be executed and witnessed. It is extremely important for a person to get proper legal advice from a New York estate and probate attorney about how to provide for the distribution of their assets, especially if they have a large estate or own property in another state. Otherwise, the surviving spouse or family members may incur additional legal fees and even have to file a second probate in the state where real property is owned in order to transfer title or dispose of the property.

Intestate Proceedings

If under New York law, a holographic will is found to be invalid at the time of the death of the testator, then the testator will be declared to have died intestate, without a will. The surviving spouse or another family member would need to apply for Letters of Administration with the New York Surrogate’s Court to have an administrator appointed. An administrator can be any person over the age of 18 years of age. Most of the time, an administrator is a spouse, family member, friend, attorney or financial advisor. The administrator performs such duties as filing the death certificate, paying funeral expenses, managing the estate assets, selling assets, making accountings, settling disputes among beneficiaries, paying bills and claims and winding up and settling the estate. The laws regarding intestate estates are complex and require the services of a New York estate attorney to assist with Court filings and other legal matters.

In order to avoid dying intestate or having a holographic will declared invalid, it is recommended that a person make a valid and legal in accordance with New York laws.

If you wish to speak to a New York estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at 718-509-9774.