The Document Exception For A NY Will

The Document Exception For A Will

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The Document Exception for a New York Will

When it comes to estate planning in New York, understanding the intricacies of wills and their validity is crucial. New York State law has specific requirements for what constitutes a valid will, and these requirements ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out accurately.

What Is the Document Exception for a New York Will?

The Document Exception is a critical aspect of New York State’s law on wills. It allows certain documents to be incorporated by reference into a will without physically attaching them to the will itself. These documents can include:

  • Lists identifying the recipients of specific bequests.
  • Letters or memoranda that explain the testator’s wishes regarding the distribution of personal property.
  • Other written documents that clarify the testator’s intentions.

The Document Exception is a valuable tool in estate planning, as it provides flexibility to testators while maintaining the validity of their wills.

Requirements for Using the Document Exception

For the Document Exception to be valid in New York, certain requirements must be met:

Reference in the Will

The will must make reference to the existence of the document, letter, or memorandum. This reference can be general, such as “I leave my personal property according to the list I have prepared,” or more specific, naming the document directly.

Identity of Beneficiaries

The document, letter, or memorandum must identify the beneficiaries of specific bequests. It should clearly state who should receive which items or assets.

Signature and Date

The document, letter, or memorandum should be signed and dated by the testator. While New York law doesn’t require these documents to be witnessed or notarized, having the testator’s signature and date of execution can help establish the validity of the reference.

No Conflicting Terms

The terms of the document, letter, or memorandum should not conflict with the terms of the will. If there are inconsistencies, the will takes precedence unless it’s clear that the document was intended to override the will’s provisions.

Why Use the Document Exception?

The Document Exception offers several advantages in estate planning:


It allows testators to make changes to the distribution of personal property without the need to amend the entire will. This is especially helpful when individuals want to make small adjustments over time.


Unlike a will, which becomes a public record once it enters probate, documents, letters, or memoranda referenced under the Document Exception remain private. This can be beneficial for testators who wish to keep certain matters confidential.


The Document Exception streamlines the estate planning process by reducing the need for frequent will revisions. Testators can update their intentions in separate, private documents.

Utilizing the Document Exception effectively in your estate planning requires careful consideration of New York State’s laws and regulations. It’s advisable to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning and can provide guidance on incorporating the Document Exception into your will.


The Document Exception is a valuable tool under New York State law that allows individuals to reference separate documents, letters, or memoranda in their wills to clarify their intentions regarding the distribution of personal property. When used correctly, this exception can provide flexibility, privacy, and efficiency in estate planning.

At Morgan Legal Group, our team of experienced attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning in New York, including the use of the Document Exception. Contact us today to discuss your specific estate planning needs and ensure that your wishes are carried out accurately and effectively.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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