In New York State in order to be a legally valid Will, the Will must be signed by two (2) Witnesses who are in no way, shape or form beneficiaries of the estate/Will.

Do the Witnesses need to see/read a copy of the Will in advance, or are they just there at the signing to affirm that the Testators are of sound mind, memory and testamentary capacity (not under duress, etc.)?

Is it customary for Witnesses to receive (in advance) copies of the Will for their own records?

1 Answer 1


NY Est Pow & Trusts L § 3-2.1(a)(1)(C)(4) requires that

There shall be at least two attesting witnesses, who shall, within one thirty day period, both attest the testator's signature, as affixed or acknowledged in their presence, and at the request of the testator, sign their names and affix their residence addresses at the end of the will. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the thirty day requirement of the preceding sentence has been fulfilled. The failure of a witness to affix his address shall not affect the validity of the will.

That means that the witnesses attest to having seen you sign the will, and you must know that it is a will being signed. There is no requirement that they see the will itself, and they do not "attest" anything regarding sound mind, memory or testamentary capacity. It is not required that witnesses receive a copy of the will (for any reason), and it is probably extremely rare for them to do so.

However, a witness could be called, during a subsequent court procedure, to testify as to relevant facts such as that a beneficiary held a gun to the testator's head.

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    The best practice, however, is to have the witnesses sign an affidavit at the same time that the witness attests to the testator's signature which does say something regarding testamentary capacity and lack of duress. If two witnesses have executed such affidavits the will is what one calls "self-proving" in that the witnesses do not have to testify at death regarding these matters for the will to be admitted to probate unless there is an actual contest of the will. Witnesses don't generally read the will although they usually see it being signed and almost never get a copy.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 19:22

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