What are Common Mistakes When Writing a Will in New York State?
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What are Common Mistakes When Writing a Will in New York State?

What are common mistakes to avoid when making a Will? How can I ensure that my Will is valid? In this article, we'll outline common mistakes that are made when creating a Will in New York and how you can avoid them!

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Writing a Will is a crucial step in securing your assets and ensuring your final wishes are honored after you die. However, even in a state like New York, with well-established legal guidelines for estate planning, people often make mistakes when drafting their Wills. These errors can lead to confusion, family disputes, and unnecessary complications for your loved ones during an already challenging time. In this article, we'll explore the most common mistakes people make when writing a will in New York State and how you can avoid them.


One of the most common mistakes is simply putting off writing a Will. Many people believe they have plenty of time to create one, leading to unnecessary stress and complications if they unexpectedly pass away without a valid Will. If you die without a Will, this is called "dying intestate." When you die intestate, the State of New York then distributes your assets according to the preferences in state law. To avoid this, start the process as soon as possible, regardless of your age or current health.

Not Understanding New York Law

New York State has specific laws and regulations governing Wills and estate planning. If you don't understand the law or make the mistake of reading up on other states' laws, you can make a major mistake. To avoid this, you can consult an experienced estate planning attorney or use a trusted platform like FastWill. Our platform is informed by lawyers who practice in New York. We can help ensure your Will complies with state laws, reducing the risk of disputes or challenges later on.

Incomplete or Ambiguous Wording

A Will must be precise and clear in its language. Vague or ambiguous terms can lead to confusion and disputes among beneficiaries. Be specific when naming beneficiaries and describing the assets you're leaving to them. For example, stating, "I leave my house to my daughter, Sarah Smith, who resides at 123 Elm Street, Albany, New York," is much clearer than a generic statement like, "I leave my house to my daughter."

Forgetting to Update the Will

Life circumstances change, and so should your Will. Failing to update your Will after major life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or the death of beneficiaries, can lead to unintended consequences. Regularly review and update your Will to ensure it reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

Ignoring Digital Assets

In the digital age, it's essential to account for digital assets, including online accounts, cryptocurrency, and intellectual property. Failing to include these in your estate plan can result in their loss or mismanagement.  

Improper Witnessing and Notarization

New York State law requires that a Will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses must be at least 18 years old and must also sign the Will. Failure to follow these witnessing and notarization requirements can render the Will invalid. Additionally, witnesses cannot be beneficiaries in New York. This provision is designed to avoid conflicts of interest.

Ignoring Spousal Rights

New York State law provides certain protections and rights to surviving spouses, which can impact how your assets are distributed. Ignoring these rights or failing to account for them in your Will can lead to legal challenges.  

Poor Tax Planning

Estate taxes can significantly impact the value of your estate. Failing to consider tax implications when drafting your Will can result in your heirs receiving less than you intended. If you have a large estate, then an estate planning attorney can help you structure your will to minimize tax liabilities.

Leaving Out Alternate Beneficiaries

When naming beneficiaries, it's wise to include alternate or contingent beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiaries predecease you or are unable to inherit for any reason. Without these provisions, your assets may pass through intestate succession, which may not align with your wishes.

Not Providing for Minor Children Properly

If you have minor children, you should name a guardian in your Will to ensure their care and well-being in the event of your passing. Failing to do so can result in a court deciding their guardianship, potentially causing conflicts among family members.

Draft a New York Will Online

Writing a Will in New York State is a critical step in securing your legacy and providing for your loved ones. To avoid the most common mistakes, seek legal advice from an experienced estate planning attorney, use platforms like FastWill, be clear and specific in your language, regularly update your Will, and consider all relevant factors, including spousal rights, taxes, and digital assets. Taking these precautions will help ensure your final wishes are carried out smoothly, and your loved ones are protected during a difficult time. Remember, your will is not a static document; it should evolve with your life circumstances to reflect your current intentions accurately.

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