In order to execute a valid will in New York a person must meet certain signatory and witness requirements. These requirements are in place to ensure that the wishes and rights of the testator — that is, the person creating the will — are protected and that duress and fraud do not play a role in the creation of their testamentary documents. However, in some extreme circumstances individuals may not be able to put together technically valid wills before reaching the ends of their lives. They may be able to execute holographic or nuncupative wills that will be recognized as valid if certain circumstances exist.

A holographic will is one that is physically written out by the testator. For such a will to be recognized as valid in New York it must be drafted by a member of the armed services or a military support employee and that drafting must happen during a war or other active conflict. Additionally, mariners at sea may draft holographic wills.

Nuncupative wills may also be drafted by the same individuals and under the same sets of circumstances. A nuncupative will is an oral will in which the testator dictates their intentions regarding the disposition of their possessions and estate, and the making of the nuncupative will and its content are clearly established by two or more witnesses.

In the end, New York recognizes certain alternative forms of wills but only in limited circumstances and for a limited part of the greater population. Those who have questions about the validity of their will or other estate planning and probate topics may want to seek professional guidance. A poorly executed will may be open to challenges and may languish in probate due to preventable mistakes and errors.