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New York Wills Laws

Laws governing the drafting, signing, and enforcement of wills are fairly similar among U.S. states. As in many other states, New York's wills laws require the testator (the person writing the will) to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. New York also recognizes oral (or "nuncupative") wills, but generally only if made by members of armed forces while in actual military or naval service during a war or other armed conflict. The same goes for New York holographic wills, which are handwritten.

Highlights of New York's wills laws are listed in the table below, and more detailed information follows. See FindLaw's Making a Will and Revoking, Challenging, or Changing a Will sections to learn more. Click here to form a valid will with help from FindLaw. 

Code Section Estates, Powers & Trusts §§3-1.1, et seq.
Age of Testator 18 years or older. and of sound mind and memory
Number of Witnesses Signed at the end by testator or acknowledged in presence of two attesting witnesses; witnesses must attest to testator's signature within 30 days, and at testator's request, sign their names and residence addresses at the end of the will.
Nuncupative (Oral Wills) Valid only if made by members of armed forces while in actual military or naval service during a war or other armed conflict, person who serves with or accompanies an armed force engaged in such activity, or mariner at sea
Holographic Wills Same provisions as for nuncupative wills and written entirely in testator's handwriting.

Basics Will Requirements


New York requires that the person making the will be at least 18 years of age. This is because New York law does not consider someone under the age of 18 to have the legal capacity to create a will or enter into contracts.

Sound Mind

One of the most confusing requirements for making a will is the idea that the testator must be of sound mind. Sound mind does not mean that the person is completely clear headed. Generally, they will only need to know the purpose of the will they are making, and generally know the nature of their property. People who have mental disabilities may make a will if they meet those two requirements.


In New York, the will must be witnessed by two people. Those witnesses must either see the testator sign the will at the end, or see the testator acknowledge that the will is theirs. The witnesses must sign their names at the end of the will, and include their residential addresses.

Holographic Wills

Holographic wills are wills that are written by hand. In New York, they are only valid if they are made by members of the armed services during an armed conflict. The handwritten will must be entirely in the testator's handwriting.

Oral Wills

Oral wills made by service members during an armed conflict are also valid in New York.

Although it is possible to write a will on your own, only an attorney will be able to tell you if a will is the best option for your estate plan. As well, if you choose to make a will, an attorney will help you set up the will in order to avoid as much hassle and cost for your heirs. If you would like to know more about the requirements and process for making a will in New York, there are many estate planning attorneys throughout the state, and in your local area, who may be able to help.

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