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2 estate planning mistakes that undermine a will’s validity

Estate planning is often a complicated process that requires an individual to review their finances and think deeply about their closest relationships. For many testators, a will is the only document that they create. It is the primary instrument that serves to protect their loved ones and establish their legacy after they die.

Many adults in New York have wills and simply trust that these documents will fulfill their purpose after they pass away. However, some testators make mistakes that undermine their intended legacy and ultimately cause probate challenges for their loved ones. These are two common mistakes that people make while drafting a will for their estate plans.

They create a digital will or don’t have witnesses

It is surprisingly common for people to assume that they can just put together an electronic document on their own, save it on their computer or to an external storage device and then expect the courts to acknowledge the document during probate proceedings. However, New York law is very clear about the requirements for wills. In most cases, the bare minimum necessary to create a valid will includes having two witnesses present at the time of the document signing. Unwitnessed wills are vulnerable to challenge and may not hold up in probate court.

They wait too long to draft documents

Many people don’t embrace the concept of estate planning until they start to be aware of their own mortality, which often occurs as they approach or pass retirement age. When people wait until the 11th hour to put together a will, they may put themselves in a situation where others will question whether they still have the testamentary capacity to draft legally binding documents. If family members can question someone’s testamentary capacity or if there is reason to believe that a late-in-life will is the result of someone exerting undue influence on the testator, the New York probate courts may choose not to uphold the document and might rule in favor of someone who contests the will.

Understanding the common mistakes that people make that can lead to the invalidation of wills may help those hoping to create enforceable estate planning documents to avoid those missteps. Seeking legal guidance proactively can help to provide additional clarity.

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