It’s easy to assume that celebrities have the best-written estate plans. In reality, however, each year countless celebrities pass away and create estate problems because they do not clearly express their wishes.
For example, when the “queen of soul music” Aretha Franklin passed away, she left a holographic will behind. While some news sources first reported that Franklin had passed away without any type of estate plan, she was later discovered to have left behind a holographic will. This means that instead of administering Franklin’s estate following state intestacy law, Franklin’s estate was divided under the terms of her handwritten will.
When New York Holographic Wills Are Valid
Some people wonder exactly what impact a holographic or handwritten will has. The answer is the role these wills play in estate administration depend on the state where a person lives.
If you live in New York, holographic wills are valid only if certain conditions are met. To be found valid, the holographic will be found valid only in situations where the document is (1) created by a member of the armed services during active duty, (2) if the creator accompanies an armed force during an armed conflict, (3) if the document is created by a mariner at sea, or (4) the document is created by someone who has been out of the military for at least one year.
If the creator of the holographic will loses testamentary capacity, the will is still be found valid for one year after the person regains capacity. If created under the proper circumstances, a holographic will’s terms are then given the same power as any other type of will.
In addition to meeting these requirements, to be found valid, holographic wills in New York must also meet several requirements. One, witnesses must be able to establish that a person signed the will. Additionally, the person who creates the holographic will must not be mentally impaired and must be at least 18 years old at the time of the writing.
The Role of New York Holographic Wills
Probate courts in New York often express the perspective that holographic wills are at an increased risk of fraud because they could easily be forged by another party. To be found valid, however, a holographic will must still meet New York’s various strict requirements. The lesson to be gleaned from this estate planning tool is that while some states have much lower requirements for these wills to be valid, New York has particularly strict requirements.
While it might seem tempting to write out the terms of your will by hand, if the will does not meet the requirements then its terms will not be enforceable. Instead, it almost always a much better idea to create more formal estate planning documents.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
To make sure that your estate is handled in the way you desire, it is a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.