Recently our office was contacted by a family who resides in New York. The family had just lost a family member, who had a hand written will, which had been signed by two unrelated people. The family was happy with the will, but they weren’t sure if the State of New York would recognize a handwritten will and contacted our office for assistance. A truly hand written will, which is called a holographic will, is only valid in a few states. Unfortunately these are not valid in the state of New York unless the handwritten will is made by (a) a member of the armed forces while in service during war or armed conflict; (b) a person who serves with or accompanies an armed force during war or armed conflict; or (c) by a mariner at sea. In these cases a holographic will must be signed by two witnesses and becomes invalid one year after discharge if made by an armed forces member and three years after it was made by a mariner. Since the handwritten will did not meet the above guidelines, then the family member passed away in essence without a will and is “intestate”. The laws of intestacy for the state of New York then determine the distribution of the estate. Without getting in to too much detail, the laws of intestacy in New York state that if a family member is survived by a spouse as well as descendants, then the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus one-half of the remaining property, and the descendants inherit the rest. It’s never advisable to pass away without a will and designing one on your own can have devastating consequences. Please do yourself and your loved ones a favor and contact a certified elder law attorney to design a will and protect your estate and heirs.