A will is a legal document stating final wishes of an individual, also known as a testator. It is normally read in a court of law after the death of the individual who wrote the will. The court is responsible for ensuring the final wishes of the deceased are carried out in an appropriate manner, which is normally specified within the will. This could include, but is not limited to, burial instructions, asset distribution and how the estate should be dissolved.
Other uses of a will:
- Decides how debts and taxes will be paid
- Names an executor of the estate
- Names guardians for children and the property they inherit
- Determines how to provide for pets
- Serves as a backup to a living trust
When Can You Notarize a Will?
As a notary, you may notarize a will, whether prepared by an attorney or not, provided that the required conditions are met:
- The signer (testator) must be present and competent to execute the will
- The signer must be personally known to you or produce appropriate state-approved identification
- The signer, in addition to being competent and of sound mind, must fully understand what is in the will and what is being signed
Not all states require that a will be notarized. However, clients may use a notarized self-proving affidavit that will make their will easier to get through probate, which is the official proving of a will after death.
As a notary, you must be cautious when asked to notarize a will. An improperly drafted will that has been notarized could be challenged in court and be declared null and void.
When to Decline to Notarize a Will
You should decline to notarize a will, if the testator asks you questions about what can and cannot be in a will. Never answer any questions related to legal advice. It is important to remember that as a notary, you are to never offer advice on how to execute a will or provide any legal advice unless you are an attorney licensed to practice law.
At least two witnesses are required to make a will valid. All information should be drafted and brought to you to notarize. While the notary may also serve as a witness to a will, you will be signing the witness statement as a disinterested party, not as a notary.