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.

    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.

    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.

    About the Author

    Catherine McNally published her first article, a piece on protecting confidential business information in "Thomson's Tax, Corporate and Accounting Alert" in 2004. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from McGill University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.