Do Wills Have to Be Notarized?

By Teo Spengler

The signature of the testator, or will maker, need not be notarized, nor can a notarized signature replace the legal requirement of two subscribing witnesses to the will. A notary's function is to assure that the person signing a document is the person claiming to sign a document -- a function performed by comparing identification and sometimes fingerprints -- while witnesses to a will must also affirm testamentary capacity and intent.

The signature of the testator, or will maker, need not be notarized, nor can a notarized signature replace the legal requirement of two subscribing witnesses to the will. A notary's function is to assure that the person signing a document is the person claiming to sign a document -- a function performed by comparing identification and sometimes fingerprints -- while witnesses to a will must also affirm testamentary capacity and intent.

Witnesses

Most states require that two witnesses subscribe to the execution of a prepared will. Since the testator is deceased, he cannot verify his signature nor testify as to his intent, so the witnesses testify in his place. Generally, witnesses must swear to the testator's identity -- that the person who signed the will was who he claimed to be -- that he was of legal age, possessed the required testamentary capacity, executed the will of his own free will and had full knowledge of the contents of the will. As of November 2010, no state requires that the testator's signature be notarized.

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Witness Qualifications

Witnesses must be 18 years or older and of sound mind. The law prefers disinterested witnesses -- witnesses who are not also heirs under the will -- and the majority of states specifically require them. In those states, a witness who also stands to inherit under the will may lose the inheritance. While a notary can serve as a witness to a will, she will sign as a disinterested witness, not as a notary.

Self-proving Will

Once a will is admitted into probate, the signature must be proved to be that of the deceased. The subscribing witnesses generally must testify in probate court. The parties can avoid this inconvenience if a notary is present at the time the will is executed. The testator and witnesses sign the will and acknowledge their signatures in the presence of a notary public who affirms their signatures. If this procedure is followed, the will is termed "self-proving" and no other testimony is required to prove the will.

Holographic Wills

Holographic wills, or handwritten wills, are valid in many states, including California. Holographic wills by definition cannot be preprinted, nor should printed materials be incorporated into them. These wills do not require affirming witnesses or need the testator's signature be notarized. According to the National Notary Association, some holographic wills are invalidated by notarization.

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Is a Notary Needed for a Will to Be Legal?

References

Related articles

Verifying Authenticity of a Last Will & Testament

The maker of a will, commonly known as the "testator," must draft the will in accordance with the state's probate code for it to be held as valid. Generally, these formalities exist so that a probate court can verify the authenticity of the will. When a will is admitted to probate court, the court examines the will to make sure it was made in compliance with state law.

Does a LegalZoom Will Have to Be Notarized?

LegalZoom provides a number of law-related resources, including wills based on information you provide. Like any will, a will from LegalZoom must meet your state's requirements for valid wills in order to be considered legal in your state. A LegalZoom will may or may not have to be notarized. You may also wish to consider having it notarized to make probate move more quickly, if your state allows.

Must I Have My Will Notorized in Michigan for it to Be Legal?

A will must be signed by the testator, or the person who made the will, and at least two witnesses who saw the testator sign, in all 50 states, including Michigan, according to FindLaw. Notarization is not required in Michigan, but a notarized will may be accepted as "self-proving," potentially making probate proceedings easier for those you leave behind.

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