Do Wills Have to Be Notarized in Pennsylvania?

By Catherine McNally

Pennsylvania law does not require the notarization of wills at the time of signing. If a will is not notarized, however, two witnesses must authenticate the will maker’s -- officially known as the "testator" -- signature at the time of probate.

Pennsylvania law does not require the notarization of wills at the time of signing. If a will is not notarized, however, two witnesses must authenticate the will maker’s -- officially known as the "testator" -- signature at the time of probate.

Notarization of Documents

The presence of a notary public provides several safeguards when parties sign important documents. For example, the notary verifies the parties' identities, and also acts as a witness to ensure that a document is properly signed and entered into willingly. The notary then places his official signature and seal on the document.

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Pennsylvania Rules

Pennsylvania does not require the notarization of wills at the time of signing. If a will does include a notarized affidavit signed by the testator and two witnesses at the time of execution, it is considered a "self-proven" will. If a will is not notarized, however, the witnesses must declare that the testator's signature is valid at the start of the probate process.

Probate Requirement

Probate is the process where a court determines a will's validity and distributes assets. Pennsylvania law requires that all wills must be probated before the county register of the county where the testator last resided. The testator's signature must be authenticated at the beginning of the probate process.

Authentication of Signature at Probate

At probate, two competent witnesses must declare, by affirmation or oath, the authenticity of the will maker’s signature or mark. The affirmation must be notarized if a witness is not present at probate and instead provides a written affirmation.

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Are Notarized Wills Legal?

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The Format for a Legal Will

While probate laws defining the format for a valid will vary from state to state, most states acknowledge at least two different types of wills as valid. All states recognize the written will -- the most common format -- which is signed by the testator and two additional witnesses. However, technology and creativity makes way for newer formats, especially when the testator does not have access to the materials needed to execute a traditional will, and state law has evolved to recognize other, less common formats. It is important to note that, with the exception of the written will, not every state recognizes all formats as valid. Testators should always review their residential state’s probate code to determine what formats are acceptable before establishing a final will.

Is a Notarized Will Legal in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law has specific requirements for what makes a will legal in the state. These requirements include who must sign a will in order to make it valid. Although a notary may sign a will as a witness in Massachusetts, a will that is notarized but not witnessed is not valid, according to the Massachusetts Probate Code.

What Constitutes a Legal Will?

A will is a testator's final directive about her property. A valid will effectively disposes of all of the testator's assets after her death according to her own choices. In order for a will to be valid, the testator must be competent, must intend to make a will and must execute the document according to state law. Absent a valid will, property passes to blood relatives under state intestate distribution laws.

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