Wills in California don’t need to be notarized to be valid, but notarization can make the probate process smoother. That’s because, when a will is notarized, it means the probate court doesn’t have to summon the witnesses to make sure the will is legally binding.
There are several legal requirements when you make a will in California — notarization isn’t one of them
For a will to be legally binding in California, it needs to be:
- In writing
- Created by a testator (the person making the will) who is of sound mind and at least 18 years old
- Signed by — and in the presence of — two or more witnesses
Even if a will is notarized, it still needs to be witnessed
Witnesses are a legal requirement for a will to be binding in California — notarization isn’t.
Even if you get your will notarized, you still need to get it signed by two witnesses.
When you get your will notarized, you add what’s called a “self-proving affidavit” to it. Self-proving affidavits need to be signed by the testator and two witnesses.
The self-proving affidavit confirms that the will was executed properly. California accepts self-proving wills.
You don’t need your will to be self-proving, but, in states that recognize self-proving wills (which, at the time of writing, is all of them), it can make the probate process quicker.
That’s because it obviates the need to contact the witnesses — which is usually what has to happen in California — to double-check that they are who they say they are, and that the will was written in a legally binding way.
So, even though it’s not strictly necessary, it can be handy.
The notarization process in California
A notary public, an impartial third-party appointed by a state government, carries out the notarization. Here's a step-by-step guide to the general notarization process:
Locate a Notary Public: Notaries public can often be found in various places, including banks, law offices, and courier businesses. Some notaries also offer mobile services, coming to your location for convenience.
Present the Document: The document to be notarized must be presented to the notary public. The document should be completely filled out, leaving only the necessary signatures. A notary cannot notarize a blank or incomplete document.
Provide Identification: To prove your identity to the notary public, you'll need to present a valid form of identification. This typically includes government-issued identification cards, such as a driver's license, state-issued identification card, or a passport.
In California, if your ID is expired, it needs to have been issued within the last 5 years.
Sign the Document: You must sign the document in the presence of the notary public. This allows the notary to verify that you are signing the document willingly and that you are the person you claim to be.
Notary Completes the Notarization: The notary public will then complete the notarization. They will fill out a notarial certificate that includes details such as who signed the document, what document was signed, where and when the signing occurred. The notary will also affix their official seal to the document.
In California, notaries can charge a fee of $15 per signature for each notarial act they perform.
California notaries may also charge additional fees for ancillary services, but these aren’t regulated by the state.
For example, a notary might charge a fee if they’re traveling to you. There’s no maximum amount notaries can charge for travel in California, but there is a legal requirement for the notary to agree to the travel fee with you in advance. The notary also has to explain that the travel fee is separate and not required by law.
California notaries can also charge fees for other services they might provide, such as providing certified copies of documents, or offering courier or document preparation services. However, these fees are not regulated by state law, and they can vary widely depending on the specific notary and the services provided.
As always, for the most accurate and up-to-date information on notary fees in California, it's best to contact a notary public in your area or the California Secretary of State's office, which oversees notaries public in the state.
Make a California will online with Snug
With Snug, you can make an estate plan in California for just $145. Get started today.