Wills 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 — notarization isn’t one of them
For a will to be legally binding, it needs to be:
- In writing
- Created by a testator (the person making the will) who is of sound mind
- 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 — 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.
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 — 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
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.
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.
Payment of Notary Fees: Depending on the jurisdiction, notaries public may charge a fee for their services. These fees can vary, so it's important to confirm the cost upfront.
This process might vary a bit depending on where you are and what exactly you’re getting notarized. So it might be best to check with a public notary near you.
Notaries can charge you for their services. Almost all states have legal maximums that notifications can charge:
Bear in mind that these fees can change. And that notaries can also, in some states, charge for any traveling they have to do. Again, best to double-check with a public notary.
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