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Guidelines to Making a Will in New York

How to Make a Will in New York

To make a will in New York, you must acquaint yourself with the legal requirements that govern the process. Understanding these requirements ensures that your will is valid and enforceable. While you can legally make a will without a lawyer in New York, opting for an online will service offers a cost-effective alternative. Estate attorneys can charge substantial fees, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, if you have a complex estate or numerous assets, hiring a lawyer may prove beneficial. Consider the following factors before proceeding with making a will.

Step 1: Legal Requirements to Make a Will In New York


a. Age and Capacity:

In New York, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to create a will. Being of sound mind means having the mental capacity to understand the consequences and effects of creating a will.

b.  Format and Structure:

In New York, although a specific format for a will is not required, it is advisable to use clear and concise language as well as divide your will into sections and paragraphs for enhanced readability.

Similarly, New York does not legally recognize the creation of a holographic will by hand, except for one exception. If a member of the armed forces makes the will during an armed conflict, it can be considered valid. Additionally, under wartime circumstances, a nuncupative will, which is an oral will, may be valid as well.

3. Witnesses:

In New York, you need at least two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries.  Their role is to verify that you are the person creating the will and that you are doing so willingly. A notary can be one of those witnesses, yet it is not mandatory to have your will notarized.  However, a notary is required to make your will self-proving. When a will is self-proving, it can be admitted to probate without needing your witnesses’ testimony.  Self proving wills can speed up the probate process.  If you choose to  have a self proving affidavit, make certain it is one that is provided for your state. 

Step 2: Gather Important Information

To write a comprehensive will, you need to gather essential information beforehand. Take the time to compile the following details:

Asset Inventory:

Make a list of your assets.   This would include real estate, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, personal belongings, and any other valuable possessions.

When creating a will, it is crucial to exclude non-probate assets. Non-probate assets are those that bypass the Probate Court and directly transfer to named beneficiaries. Examples of such assets include accounts held with rights of survivorship, or due on death (DOD).

For instance, consider a father who drafts a will dividing his assets equally among his three children, believing he is being fair to all. However, he neglects to consider that he has named only one child as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. As the life insurance policy is his only asset, the other children receive nothing from his estate.


Identify the individuals or organizations that you wish to inherit your assets. Be sure to include their full legal names.


Choose a trusted person to be the executor of your will. This person will be responsible for carrying out your wishes, managing your estate, and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries.

Step 3: Determine Your Distribution of Assets

Decide how you want to distribute your assets among your beneficiaries. Consider the following factors:

Specific Gifts:

You may have specific asset items or sums of money that you want to leave to particular individuals or organizations. Clearly state these gifts in your will.

Residual Estate:

Determine how you want the remainder of your estate to be distributed after specific gifts have been fulfilled. You can divide it equally among beneficiaries or specify different percentages.

Contingent Beneficiaries:

In case a primary beneficiary predeceases you or is unable to inherit, name alternate beneficiaries to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Step 4: Appoint a Guardian for Minor Children

If you have minor children, it’s critical to designate a guardian.  A guardian will take care of them in the event of your passing. Discuss this responsibility with the chosen person beforehand and make sure they are willing to assume this role.

Step 5: Consider Doing an Online Will

You may also want to consider the option of doing an online will. Opting for an online will allows you to work at your own pace.  In addition, you can carefully consider all aspects of your estate planning, including your assets, guardianship preferences, and beneficiaries. This method provides the convenience of avoiding the pressure associated with in person attorney consultation fees.

By using an online platform, you can draft your will from the comfort of your own home, taking the time needed to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected in the document.

Step 6: Consult an Attorney for Review

Once you online will is completed, it is advisable to consult an attorney for a professional review. If you have a complex estate, it’s crucial to have your document reviewed by a legal expert.  This way you are ensured it meets all your goals and complies with the specific legal requirements in New York.

An attorney can provide valuable guidance and advice, ensuring that your will accurately reflects your intentions and covers all the necessary legal aspects. They can help you address any potential complexities or unique situations that may arise, providing you with the peace of mind that your will is comprehensive and legally sound.

Safeguarding Your Will

Once your will is complete, it is essential to take additional steps to ensure its accessibility and safekeeping. By registering your will and storing a copy online, you can provide your family with peace of mind, knowing that your wishes are easily located when needed. Consider the following options:

First and foremost, securely register your will through The U.S. Will Registry’s free service. By utilizing this service, you actively create a record of your will’s existence, making it easier for your family or designated representatives to locate it when the time comes. Taking this proactive step significantly reduces the risk of overlooking or misplacing your will.


Additionally, SideDrawer.com provides a convenient and free online platform for storing important documents, including your will. Upload a digital copy of your will to SideDrawer.com (free to the public) to ensure secure storage and easy accessibility for your designated individuals whenever needed. This online storage solution adds an extra layer of protection, guarding against the loss, damage, or physical misplacement of your will.

By proactively registering your will with The U.S. Will Registry and storing a copy online using SideDrawer.com, you add an extra level of preparedness to your estate planning efforts. These resources enable your family to locate and access your will efficiently, streamlining the probate process and ensuring accurate fulfillment of your wishes.

Remember to communicate the existence and location of your will to your loved ones and trusted individuals, such as your executor or attorney. Provide them with the necessary information about the U.S. Will Registry and SideDrawer.com, ensuring seamless navigation of the process and honoring your intentions.


In conclusion, understanding probate assets and implementing appropriate strategies simplifies the asset distribution process, potentially reduces costs, and maintains privacy. Take proactive steps to create an estate plan that suits your needs, and seek professional assistance to ensure efficient fulfillment of your wishes and provision for your loved ones.

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