Do Wills Have to Be Notarized?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Do Wills Have to Be Notarized?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

When you create your last will and testament, you want to be certain it fully complies with the laws of your state so that it is valid and enforceable. For it to be valid, it must be signed by the testator, or person making the will, and witnessed. Although the testator's signature does not need to be notarized, a notary can play a role in the execution of additional documents related to the document.

Last will and testament

Witnesses to a Will

When you execute your will, your state requires that you have two witnesses to it, unless you are in Vermont, which requires three witnesses. After the witnesses watch you sign the document, they sign it as well, swearing that:

  • They saw you sign the will
  • They know you are who you say you are
  • You are of legal age to make a will
  • You have testamentary capacity, or the mental ability to make decisions about your estate
  • You signed of your own free will
  • You knew the contents of the will when signing it

The signatures of the witnesses confirm all of these facts and make the document valid. Neither you nor the witnesses are required to have your signatures notarized.

Witness Qualifications

It's important to make sure you have qualified witnesses so that the document won't be invalidated. To witness a will, a person must be:

  • 18 years or older
  • Of sound mind
  • An uninterested party, i.e., not an heir or someone mentioned in the will

Although a notary can be a witness, they do so only as a civilian witness, meaning the notary license does not come into play. It's a good idea to read your state requirements for witnesses to ensure you are in full compliance.

Self-Proving Affidavit

The only situation in which a notary is involved in the signing of a will is when the witnesses also execute separate documents called self-proving affidavits. In a self-proving affidavit, which is made in addition to the will and attached to it, the witness swears before the notary that they witnessed the signing and attest to all of the witness statements listed above.

Since it is a sworn document, the affidavit can then be used to probate the will, thus removing the need to find the witnesses and have them testify in court during probate. Because having a self-proving affidavit can save a lot of time and money, most attorneys routinely have a witness sign this document at the will-signing ceremony. When the self-proving affidavit is executed, the document becomes what is called a self-proving will.

Holographic Wills

A holographic will is one that is completely done in handwriting by the testator. No part of the will can be typed or in a preprinted form. Only certain states recognize holographic wills, and those that do each have their own rules, so be sure to research your state's requirements. In most states where holographic wills are valid, it does not need to be witnessed or notarized. The National Notary Association states that, in some states, notarizing a holographic will actually invalidates it.

Executing your will correctly with witnesses ensures that your wishes are carried out and there are no legal problems involved during any possible probate. You do not need to have a notary sign the will, especially since it could invalidate it. Otherwise, following the necessary steps outlined by your state's laws will ensure a proper and legal last will and testament.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.