In the recent case, In the Estate of Hohmann, a person passed away without leaving an executed will. The deceased man’s caretaker, however, found a handwritten document where the deceased man stated his wishes for his assets. The deceased’s cousin later applied to probate the handwritten document like a written will. An heir of the deceased man later filed an opposition to the probate process. The trial court then granted summary judgment for the opponent and the applicant appealed.
The court of appeals subsequently held that valid wills must be in writing, signed by a testator, and attested by two or more credible witnesses. Even if a document does not meet these requirements, however, it can be admitted to probate as a holographic will if it is handwritten entirely by the testator and the testator placed a signature or initials on the document to execute it.
The court then held that the document had not been signed and was not valid. The court also noted that while signatures can be informal and that the location of signatures is of secondary importance, the testator must intend his name or mark to constitute a signature. In this case, however, the court found no evidence indicating that the testator intended the phrase to be used in such a way. The court also found that when the written document is viewed as a whole, the testator’s signed names bore no connection to any other provisions in the document.
Holographic wills are not as commonly used as they once were. In certain situations, however, these documents can still achieve unique estate planning goals. As a result, this article reviews some critical details to understand about holographic wills in New York.
# 1 – Holographic Wills Must Meet Certain Requirements to Be Valid
Holographic wills are only valid under limited circumstances. For one, the testator must be of sound mind and at least eighteen years old. Two, the will must be entirely handwritten. This means that portions of the will cannot be typed or printed.
# 2 – Only Certain People Can Create Holographic Wills
Only three groups of people in New York can create holographic wills. First, a member of the United States armed forces who serves during a war or another type of conflict can create a holographic. Second, a person who serves with or accompanies the United States armed forces engaged in either a war or another type of conflict can create a holographic will. Third, a mariner while at sea can create a holographic will.
# 3 – Holographic Wills Can Become Invalid
In New York, holographic wills become invalid after a period of one year from the formation. After this time, the testator will be determined to have passed away without a will if no other will has been created.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
One of the best ways to make sure that your will is valid and capable of achieving your goals is to obtain the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. During a free case evaluation with an attorney at Ettinger Law Firm, we can discuss your various estate planning goals as well as what estate planning documents can be used to achieve them. Contact our law office today for assistance.