The laws of the state of New York impose certain requirements on wills to make sure that they are authentic representations of the testamentary desires of individuals. Requirements such as witnesses and signatures are in place to help avoid later challenges to wills based on duress, incapacity and other grounds. Challenges to wills can cause wills to be tied up in probate and can take time to work through.

Not every will must be written; however, the state recognizes two different will formats that may be used in very specific circumstances. One alternative form of will is a nuncupative will. A nuncupative will is a spoken will and may only be recognized when its creator falls into one of several categories.

Members of the armed services who are actively deployed in conflicts may make nuncupative wills. This is the same for support individuals who accompany military members on their tours of duty. Similarly, mariners who are out at sea may make oral wills. These exceptions make sense since deployed service members and sailors may not have access to witnesses and writing tools with which to execute traditional wills.

Like nuncupative wills, holographic wills may be recognized when the creators are the same as those just mentioned in the prior paragraph. A holographic will is a written will, but it is written completely by hand and by the individual creating it. Though they lack witnesses and in some cases written documentation, alternative forms of wills can be recognized by the New York courts. These exceptions are limited and readers are asked not to rely on this post’s contests as legal guidance or advice.