Syracuse & Central New York Wills & Trusts Attorney

Wills are one of the most common legal documents; however, a will must meet the legal requirements set forth by New York law. Whether you’d like to make a will or you’d like to ensure that your current will is legally valid, CDH Law PLLC can help. Contact our Syracuse Will and Estate Planning Law Firm today to schedule your initial consultation. 

The Benefits of Creating Wills in Syracuse, New York

If you pass away without creating a will, you will die “intestate,” which means your assets will be divided according to state law. Spouses and children are first to inherit under New York’s probate laws. If you do not have a spouse or minor children, New York probate courts, called Surrogate Courts, will distribute your assets to other family members. 

When you do not have a will in place, the court will also have the authority to decide who will take care of your children. This means that a judge may appoint a guardian of your children who you would never have chosen. Creating a will allows you to specify which family and friends you’d like to receive your assets. You can be as specific as you’d like. 

The court will not divide up your property on a piece by piece basis according to your preferences.  For example, you may choose to give one of your friends your antique piano, and another family member your classic car. Creating a will gives you the control of how you divide up your assets according to your wishes. 

Finally, if you are not married to your partner, your partner will not inherit any of your assets under state intestacy laws should you pass away without a will — even if you have lived together as a couple for a significant amount of time. 

The Requirements for Legally Valid Wills in New York

Your will must meet specific legal requirements to make it enforceable. To create a legally valid will, you must be at least 18 years old and “of sound mind and memory.” New York state only recognizes written wills. In exceptional circumstances, the court may enforce a handwritten (holographic) will, or an oral (nuncupative) will. Nonetheless, it is best to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure your will is valid.

The testator who creates the will must sign the will himself or herself. When the testator is unable to sign the will himself or herself, a person may sign for the testator. The person signing on the testator’s behalf must sign the will in the presence of the testator as directed by the testator. The testator must be of sound mind when signing the will. To meet this standard, the testator must understand the following three things:

  • The nature of the assets and property the testator owns
  • The natural objects of the testator’s bounty
  • The disposition of property according to the will

At least two other people must witness the testator’s signature of the will. Or, the testator must tell the witnesses that he or she signed the will. The witnesses must sign the will within 30 days of each other for the will to be legally enforceable. The testator must declare to each witness that the document the testator signed was indeed his or her will. The experienced trusts and estates lawyers at CDH Law PLLC can help you ensure that your will is legally valid in New York State. 

Will Contests in New York

In New York, interested parties have a right to contest or challenge a will. Our Syracuse will lawyers can help you determine whether or not you have the legal standing necessary to challenge a will. The following categories of people have a right to contest a will in New York:

  • Distributees who would have inherited more assets under the previous will
  • Distributees or heirs of law who would have inherited more assets if no will existed

When the testator’s child would have inherited assets under New York’s intestacy laws, but the will excludes the child from inheriting, he or she has a right to contest the will. To contest a will, the person contesting must file an objection to probate in the Surrogate’s Court. will contests must take place before the date of the citation the court issues. When no will contests happen, the Surrogate’s Court will distribute the estate according to the terms of the will.

Grounds for Will Contests in New York

Those with standing can contest the will. When those contesting a will succeed, the court will prevent the will from probate. The following are grounds for will contests in New York:

  • Undue execution: the testator did not correctly execute the signing of the will
  • Revocation: the testator revoked the will
  • Incapacitation: the testator lacked testamentary capacity due to lack of sound mind
  • Fraud: someone fraudulently induced the testator to execute the will
  • Undue influence: someone exerted undue influence on the testator 

Speak to an Experienced Syracuse Wills Lawyer Today

Whether you’re interested in making a will to protect your interest, or you’re concerned about the validity of your will, we can help. Contact the skilled Syracuse will lawyers today to learn how we can help you protect your interests.