Holographic Wills—What Are They, and What is Really Needed In Order For Them to Be Valid?

So you are sitting on your sofa thinking about life and all you have achieved and just like that it hits you-I have some assets that I would like to distribute to my family if something happens to me. The next thought that will likely cross your mind is: I should probably set up a will.

While the most effective way to distribute your assets exactly as you would wish is to get a will written up by an attorney; Courts in New York State have probated Holographic Wills–a will that was handwritten by the decedent.

In New York, precedent suggests that for a will to qualify for probate (to be valid), it must have been: (1) published by the decedent; (2) in presence of two witnesses. See In Re Pulvermacher’s Will, 305 N.Y.378 (1953). “Publication” means that the Testator has knowledge of testamentary character of instrument, and shares such knowledge with witnesses. Put simply, there needs to be a meeting of the minds between the testator (the person writing the will), and the attesting witnesses (the person who has agreed to witness the will), that the instrument (the ratty old napkin that you have decided to make your will on) they are being asked to sign as witnesses is testamenatory in character (basically that they knew they were signing a will). Estates Powers and Truste Law, Section 3-2.1(a)(3); see also In Re Estate of Pilon, 9 A.D.3d 771 (App. Div. 3d Dep’t 2004). And that is it!

Now, who does this type of will work for? This works best for someone who: 1) has very little assets so they are easily distributed; 2) someone who has assets but plans to will everything to one person. Otherwise things could get sticky!

Bottom line-if you have a good amount of assets, you will want to contact an attorney and get a will drawn up to ensure that they are distributed to your liking. If you have one person in your life and that is the person wish to give your assets to you may make your own will so long as the steps are clearly taken!