Can I make a will for my parents?

A lot of issues can come up as adult children watch their parents get older. For example, you may notice that your parents are no longer able to drive safely or that they need assistance in daily living activities. It can be a struggle to get parents to understand or accept what is going on, and some never do.

Sometimes, parents do not even have a will. This can be distressing for you and other family members. You may even think about writing a will for your parents and just having them and the necessary witnesses sign the document. However, this approach to estate planning can be problematic.

Validity of a will

In New York, a will is valid if made by someone 18 or older and of sound mind. There should be no duress involved in the making of the will. The document must be in writing and signed by the testator and two witnesses, preferably disinterested ones (who do not stand to inherit). 

However, if you write up a will for your parents, another party could argue that your parents felt pressured to accept the terms of the will as they were laid out. The party could claim that your parents felt afraid you would discontinue helping them if they refused to sign the will. Even such a seemingly small thing as removing the staples from your parents' will to make copies of it could be enough to make it invalid.

What you can do

It can indeed be frustrating to see your parents apparently not caring about formal estate planning. However, that is their right, and it is probably not a good idea for you to try to simplify things for them by writing a draft of a possible will. You can explain what stands to happen to their property under intestacy laws. You may also want to suggest that they meet with a lawyer for estate planning.

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