Does My Will Need to Be Notarized?

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Does My Will Need to Be Notarized?

To have a document “notarized” means that the document is authenticated by a notary public. You can notarize a document simply by signing it in front of a public notary (a person authorized to serve as a notary).

You may want to notarize a will if you live in a state that allows for “self-proving” wills.

What Is a Self-Proving Will?

When an individual dies, his or her assets (or “estate”) must generally go through probate before the property may be passed to his or her beneficiaries. While in probate, if the decedent has a “will,” the executor of the estate must prove the validity of the will to the satisfaction of the probate court before the property may be distributed.

Proving a will is the process of persuading the court that the will really is the decedent’s will. Unless the will is “self-proving,” proving a will may require presenting live testimony or sworn statements from witnesses to the will’s creation attesting to its authenticity.

A “self-proving” will is a will that proves its validity without the need for live witness testimony or other evidence.

Although the requirements for creating self-proving wills vary from state to state, self-proving wills are valid in all states except for the District of Columbia, Vermont, Ohio, and Maryland.

What Are the Benefits of a Self-Proving Will?

Proving a will after a decedent’s death can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Witnesses to the making of the will may be deceased or their whereabouts may be unknown, causing delays. If a will is self-proving, the executor will not need to call live witnesses or present other evidence to prove the validity of the will. This helps streamline the probate process so that the decedent’s assets and the payment of the decedent’s debts can be handled more quickly.

How to Draft a Self-Proving Will

There are generally two methods for making a self-proving will.

In some states, the maker of the will (the “testator”), along with two or more witnesses, may create a self-proving will by signing a sworn statement, or “affidavit,” in the presence of a notary public, testifying as to the authenticity of the will by stating the date the will was made and declaring that:

The affidavit is then attached to the will itself.

In other states, a notary public is not required to make a self-proving will. A will may be self-proving if two people sign the will, under penalty of perjury, and the will contains the necessary language described above. During probate, if the will is uncontested, the court will generally accept the will as self-proving.

Do I Need an Attorney to Draft My Will?

A will is your opportunity to craft your legacy. In order to help ensure that your survivors are not saddled with a lengthy probate process, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you prepare a valid, self-proving will.

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Last Modified: 03-09-2016 12:25 PM PST

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