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Five Common Types of Wills in New York

Posted on January 11, 2023


It’s never too early to prepare a Will. Although death is not something most people want to think about, it might be prudent to prepare a plan in case of the unexpected. People with significant assets as well as those with fewer assets both need to plan how to take care of their loved ones in the event of their death.

Without a valid Will, your estate will go through the process of probate which can cause a bitter struggle between all those who have a claim or stake in your property. In this case, a judge may need to distribute your assets.  By making clear statements in your Will about how the financial portion of your estate will be divided, you can spare your family, friends, and business partners the time and money it will cost them to go through probate. It is important to speak with an experienced estate lawyer before you decide what kind of Will is right for your individual circumstances.  

A Will is a common tool for estate planning. It allows testators (the person who writes a Will) to make a list of their last wishes and arrange their assets in a way that best suits them. Each type of Will has its own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you are in Nassau County or Suffolk County, a Long Island Wills lawyer may be able to help you choose the best option according to your needs. Here are 5 different types of Wills in New York: 

Different Types of Wills in New York

  1. Simple Will – A simple Will is the most common type of Will and is what people are familiar with. A simple Will allows you to decide who gets your assets, and who will be the guardian of any minor children. A simple Will can be fairly simple to make, however, it is still best to speak with an experienced lawyer to ensure that your Will is designed to serve you and your family. 
  2. Pour-over Will – Pour-over Wills are used when an estate plan contains a living trust. A pour-over Will is an alternative to a Will that includes a list of clauses that determine who gets what portion of your estate. A pour-over Will allows assets in your estate that were not transferred to the trust during your lifetime to automatically pass to your trust after your death. The trust terms allow the trustee to distribute property to trust beneficiaries.
  3. Reciprocal/Joint Wills – Reciprocal Wills are Wills made by two testators. These will mirror each other and they typically stipulate that one testator will leave his/her estate to the other spouse and vice versa. Although reciprocal Wills are often made by spouses and significant others, they can also be created by any person who needs to coordinate estate planning such as business partners. On the other hand, a Joint Will achieve the same goals as reciprocal Wills. The difference that they have is that a Joint Will is made by a single document which is made by two people, usually couples, and stipulates that the surviving spouse will inherit the estate in the event of the death of the other spouse.
  4. Holographic will – Holographic wills are the last Wills and testaments that have been handwritten by the testator. A holographic Will would typically not be probated by the Surrogate’s Court because it would prove difficult to verify its authenticity. However, there is an exception to the rule. A holographic will made during an armed conflict will be valid if it is signed by one of the military personnel, a civilian accompanying them, or a Maritimer at sea. 
  5. Nuncupative will – A nuncupative Will, which is similar to a holographic Will, is one that does not follow the formalities set by New York laws. Nuncupative Wills are oral Wills. This means that this type of Will is not written but spoken in the presence of at least two witnesses. A Will is required to be written under New York law in normal circumstances. Nuncupative Wills are usually not valid and would not be probated. However, if the Will was made by a member of the armed forces or a mariner at sea, it will be considered valid. 

Consulting an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Although it can be difficult to consider the possibility of death or disability, it is essential that you have a plan in place for your protection and that of those close to you. Proper estate planning will ensure that you are in control of your assets and property. An estate plan will also change as you and your financial circumstances change. You should review each document regularly in order to ensure that it is still compatible with your objectives and conforms to the changing law.

Long Island estate planning lawyer Seth Schlessel and our team of attorneys at Schlessel Law PLLC understand the importance of a well-designed estate plan. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced attorneys in Nassau County or Suffolk County, Long Island.

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