Do Wills Have to Be Notarized in Pennsylvania?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Do Wills Have to Be Notarized in Pennsylvania?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

According to Pennsylvania state law, a person does not need to have their will notarized in order for a probate court to see it as valid. However, because there are certain benefits associated with having your will notarized, it is still fairly common practice. In Pennsylvania, whether you choose to use a notary is a matter of personal preference.

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Requirements for Pennsylvania Wills

Notarization involves a notary placing their official signature and seal on the document and provides additional safeguards when parties sign important documents. A notary public can verify the parties' identities and also act as a witness to ensure that all parties properly sign the document and enter into agreement with full consent.

Pennsylvania law does not require a person to have their will notarized. Under Title 20 Section 2051, any individual 18 or older who is of sound mind can make a will. If the individual is of sound mind, they are aware of what they are doing and have not been deemed incompetent in a prior legal proceeding.

A valid will in Pennsylvania must be in writing, either typed or handwritten. Pennsylvania only accepts oral wills in very narrow circumstances. In all cases, the testator, or person drafting the document, must also sign it. Unlike many states, Pennsylvania law does not require two attesting witnesses to sign, or even be present, when the testator is signing. However, if the testator cannot sign on their own, they must make a mark to represent their signature and do so in front of two witnesses.

Proving and Self-Proving Wills

When the testator dies, someone must take their will to the Register of Wills office so the probate court can determine its validity. This submission begins the probate process. As part of the process of proving a will that does not have the seal of a notary, two witnesses must testify in probate court and identify the testator's signature as genuine.

However, if the document has been notarized, it is considered a self-proven will and has no need for witnesses to go to court to identify the testator's signature. For it to be self-proving, the testator and two witnesses must go to a notary public and sign an affidavit proving who they are and acknowledging that they are signing the testator's document. This makes the probate process easier and faster because a court can accept the document as valid without calling witnesses. Note that the notary cannot be considered one of the witnesses, though.

It is important to start taking a look at estate planning documents in Pennsylvania so that your family won't have to worry about what your wishes may be in the event of your death. Pennsylvania law does not explicitly require the document to be notarized in order for a probate court to find it valid. However, many people still choose to hire a notary public for this purpose. Notarization provides additional safeguards and can help speed up the beginning of the probate process.

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