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Who Can be a Witness to a Westchester Will?

An essential part of your estate plan is having a properly executed will.  Few people thing that all they need to do is write down how they want their property to be distributed after their death or fill out a form downloaded online – most people realize that they need to follow very specific laws to be sure that the will is properly executed and witnessed.  Because of the formalities involved in drafting and executing a valid will, anyone who is developing an estate plan should consult with a Westchester estate attorney to make sure their wishes are followed after their death.

Having proper witnesses is an essential parts of executing your will.  It is so important, in fact, that not following the law in this regard could possibly mean that the entire will is dismissed and your estate would be regarded as an intestate estate and distributed as such.

A will must have two witnesses.  While usually, both witnesses are present when the will is signed, there is no requirement in New York that they both be in each other’s presence.  A testator can sign in front of one witness and confirm with the other witness that the signature on the will is that of the testator.  The only requirement is that the witnesses both sign that they witnessed the signature on the will within 30 days of one another in order for the will to be validly executed.  There is no requirement that the witnesses signatures be notarized on the will itself.

Besides the will itself, the witnesses will often sign an affidavit that they were present at the time the will was signed and that there was testamentary capacity on behalf of the testator.  This would be notarized and would later be used in Surrogate’s Court to admit the will to probate.

If you are executing a will, there are a few things that you should keep in mind about who you want as witnesses.  The witnesses themselves must be over 18 and capable of swearing to the signature.  One extremely important thing to keep in mind, however, is that you must have at least two disinterested witnesses.  If you have an interested witness, meaning a witness who is also being bequeathed something in the will, the law would automatically disinherit the person who also acted as witness to the will unless there were two other disinterested witnesses who signed.  This means that any gift left to that interested witness would be void.

Your Westchester estate attorney, besides helping you come up with an estate plan that will fit your needs, will also assist you in making sure that your will is properly executed, and in providing witnesses to the will. Call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich today at (914) 293-2043 and make an appointment to make a will and other estate planning documents.