Is a Notary Needed for a Will to Be Legal?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Is a Notary Needed for a Will to Be Legal?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Whether a will needs to be notarized for it to be considered valid varies by state. Your state may or may not require notarization, for example, for your testament to be deemed legal. It is most important to understand the laws of your specific state to ensure the document's validity.

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General Requirements of a Valid Will

While each state has its own laws for what constitutes a valid will, there are some general requirements that the majority of states have adopted. In almost every state, an individual must be 18 years or older and of "sound mind" in order to create a testament. Sound mind generally means that the person is aware of what they are doing and has not been deemed incompetent in a prior legal proceeding.

In addition to these prerequisites, all states require the signature of the document's testator, or the person who created it. Depending on the type of will, most states require at least two individuals to witness the testator signing the document and require the witnesses to sign it too. Typically the only requirements of a witness are that they be competent and credible, though some states may also require that the witness is not the executor of your final testament or one of its named beneficiaries.

The testator and witnesses can sign the will without a notary present unless state law specifically requires notarization. Once the testator dies and the will is submitted to the probate court, witnesses must appear in court to identify the testator's signature on the document.

Notarizing a Will

As stated above, most states do not require a will to be notarized. However, there are benefits of doing so. Some states have provisions that govern "self-proving" wills. The defining characteristic of this type of testament is that it is accompanied by a notarized affidavit of the witnesses in which they swear to its validity. Because the affidavit has been notarized, a probate court presumes the will to be valid upon filing and accepts the affidavit in lieu of any witnesses testifying in court. This often speeds up the beginning of the probate process and makes it easier for a court to accept a will as valid.

In addition, because the court accepts a notarized witness affidavit as testimony, your loved ones could avoid the scenario where your will is found to be invalid in probate court simply because the court could not find a competent witness at the start of probate.

If you are creating a will, it is critical that you ensure it follows the requirements of your state. Even if your state does not require your testament to be notarized, there are some benefits of doing so, like ensuring its validity. This brings peace of mind in knowing that a probate court can uphold your final wishes.

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.