Although your mind may conjure images of wills scrawled entirely in delicate penmanship on a piece of paper with a large signature at the bottom, these wills are typically not valid in New York any longer. A handwritten will, also known as a ‘holographic will,’ may be legal and valid in other states, countries, or jurisdictions, but New York typically does not recognize the validity of such a document to be legally binding.

To ensure that your wishes are properly adhered to after your passing, it is important to sign a valid will with the help of an estate planning lawyer who is well-versed in the laws of your particular state. If your will was previously written in longhand, your attorney might be able to assist you in rewriting the document in a way that is considered legally valid by the courts of New York.

Are Out-of-State Holographic Wills Valid in NY?

If a person dies with a handwritten will that was composed and signed back when they were living in a different state, New York may consider the will to be valid, but only so long as the other state in question allows for holographic wills.

States which have looser restrictions than NY (but by no means zero restrictions) on holographic wills include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Meanwhile, certainly other states like Florida, Georgia, and Illinois, do not accept foreign holographic wills of any kind.

Are Holographic Wills Valid if Written by Members of the Armed Forces?

Soldiers and sailors engaged in military service or naval service for the United States have the right to write a holographic will during, or in the pause of, armed conflict.

Typically, armed service members in combat are the only ones who may write a holographic will without the need for witness signatures and still be considered valid by New York law.

What is Needed to Make Handwritten Wills Legal?

Though it must be stressed that it would be better to work with a professional attorney in the crafting of your will, there are some instances where a handwritten will could be considered valid in a New York courtroom.

If you are intent on making out your will by hand, you must do so in the company of two witnesses. You and the two witnesses must sign and date the document. On the document must be included the stated knowledge that you intend this to act as your will. It may also be wise to seek the signature of a licensed notary.