A last will and testament is a crucial component in estate planning. This central document outlines your final wishes, directs assets to loved ones, and appoints guardians for minor children or family members who may have special needs. More importantly, a will preserves your legacy by providing the support and care your family needs long after you die.

At Amoruso & Amoruso LLP, we help clients draft, amend, modify, and revoke wills. This document is one of the essential pieces that make up our comprehensive estate planning service. With this innovative estate planning solution, we work with you to assess all the complexities of your life, assets, family dynamics, and potential future scenarios. The result is a well-rounded plan that covers tax law, elder law, asset protection with family dynamics, and other key factors.

With nearly six decades of combined legal experience, firm partners Michael Amoruso and Sreelekha Chakrabarty Amoruso are recognized as estate planning leaders and innovators in New York. We will work to guide you toward future security and peace of mind. Learn more about what an experienced New York will lawyer can do for you by contacting Amoruso & Amoruso LLP today.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will in New York or Connecticut?

While a will allows you to direct how your assets or property will pass to others after your death, what happens if you die without writing a will? In New York, the law considers people who die without a valid will as having died “intestate.” Dying intestate means your property will pass to others according to state law governing intestate succession.

Intestate succession rules determine who inherits your property, even if those rules deviate from your wishes. For example, in New York, if you die without a will and you have a spouse and a child, the intestacy rules determine that your estate must be divided as follows: the first $50,000 to your spouse and the balance to be split 50/50 between your spouse and your child — even if you would have wanted to give 100% of your estate to your spouse, because you never prepared a will.

How Do You Create a Will?

You must observe specific requirements in New York and Connecticut to create a valid, enforceable will. The law requires anyone making a will to be at least 18 and have the mental capacity to make a will. The law considers any will made under duress or undue influence invalid. Your last will and testament must be a signed written document. Two people must witness your signature. You cannot use any designated beneficiary in your will as one of your witnesses.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in New York?

There are formal execution requirements to establish a valid Last Will and Testament. For example, an individual must be over the age of 18, be of sound mind, and have read and declared to two witnesses that the document is, in fact, their Last Will and Testament.

The two witnesses must not be named as beneficiaries in the will. The witnesses must confirm that you signed the will freely without coercion. The witnesses must also sign the will with their names and addresses.

Can You Change or Revoke Your Will?

Absolutely! You can change or revoke your will at any time before your passing provided you still have mental capacity.

You can change a will in one of two ways. You can execute a codicil, which is an attachment to your will that alters specific provisions. Alternatively, you can execute a brand-new document as your last will and testament. Good practice is to execute a new Last Will and Testament, as a codicil requires proving in Court that the original will and codicil were both (at different times) executed properly.

If you execute a new will to replace an old one, your new will must expressly state that it revokes any prior wills you’ve signed. When executing a codicil or amended will, you must follow the same creation and signing requirements as for your original will. Be careful, however, as you can unintentionally revoke your will without replacing it in several ways. Certain physical actions may constitute a revocation, or call into question the validity, of your will. These actions may include defacing the will, such as making a black X across the pages of the original will, shredding the original will, burning the original document, or removing the original staples.