A last will and testament is an essential part of any estate plan. Your will contains instructions for distributing your wealth after you die to ensure your legacy gets into the right hands. But creating and signing a will isn’t enough. You still need to go through the process of validating it — known as notarizing. If you’re wondering how to notarize a will, you’ve come to the right place.
What does it mean to notarize a document?
Notarizing a document is a way of proving its authenticity. A notarized document is witnessed and signed by a notary public — a person appointed by the state government to help prevent fraud. Notarizing offers an additional layer of protection for all parties involved in a transaction, as it requires them to prove their identity. When you notarize a document, it’s the equivalent of swearing an oath that the information contained in a document is accurate.
Do you need to notarize a will?
Most states do not require you to notarize your will to be legally valid. However, doing so may help simplify your estate settlement. When you pass away, your heirs will need to prove the validity of your will to a judge through a process known as probate — which can be complicated and time-consuming.
By notarizing your will, you are “self-proving” its authenticity, and your heirs may not have to jump through extra hoops to validate. In other words, notarizing your will isn’t required in most states — but doing so can make settling your estate easier on your heirs.
Preparing to notarize your will
Before getting your will notarized, you should gather all of the documents related to your will. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you review your documents in preparation for your notary appointment.
- Review your will to confirm all of the information is up-to-date
- Make amendments to your will if necessary
- Print your will documents (do not staple or sign them yet)
- Identify your witnesses
- Find a notary public
If you need to make any updates to your will, it’s best to make the changes before notarizing the document. That way, you will only need to go through the process once.
Where to notarize a will
After gathering your documents and confirming they are up-to-date, you are ready to find a notary to authenticate your will. So, how do you find a notary public?
- Use your network: Many people already have a notary in their network. Try posting to social media for referrals or ask around your office — you might have a colleague who is a notary.
- At-home notary services: You can hire a notary to come to your home through companies such as Signing Agent. A quick google search may also present convenient options for traveling notary services in your area.
- City or town clerk: Your city or town clerk’s office likely has a notary on staff — just make sure to call ahead as sometimes appointments are required.
- Local courthouse: Your local courthouse is another place that usually offers notary services, though it’s best to call and confirm before making the trip.
- Local banks: A convenient option for notary services are local banks. Most will charge a fee to notarize documents — however, the service is typically free if you have an account with the bank.
- Law offices: If an estate attorney helped you create your will, call their office and ask if a notary is on staff. Most firms offer this service, though there might be an extra fee.
- UPS Store: You may be able to notarize documents at your nearest UPS. Many UPS stores have a notary on staff, but availability will vary by location.
- Use an online notary service:Notarize.com is one of the most popular online notarization tools. Currently, their services are available in AZ, CO, FL, IN, NV, ND, UT, and VT.
To notarize your will, you will need to arrange for two witnesses at least 18 years old to accompany you and watch you sign the document. Certain people are unable to act as witnesses on your documents, such as:
- Blood relatives
- Relatives by marriage or adoption
- Anyone who will inherit from you when you die
- Advocates named in your will, such as your executor
If you are notarizing a living will, your witnesses cannot be relatives by blood, marriage, adoption, or domestic partnership.
Sign your will
Now that you’ve prepared your will and located a notary public, it’s time to make it official. Some tips to help your notary appointment go as smoothly as possible:
- Have black pens and a photo ID ready for you and your witnesses.
- Select your first witness and second witness to streamline the signing process.
- Carefully scan for short blank lines to determine where you may be required to initial the page and long blank lines with your name underneath for your signature.
- Double-check that all documents have been signed by both the notary and witnesses where required.
Secure your documents
Congratulations! You now have a valid will. The final step is to secure your documents in a safe place where your loved ones can access them when the time comes. Here’s how:
- Scan a copy of your documents to your MyAdvocate portal using a scanner or smartphone (click here for instructions for iPhone users, or here for Android.)
- Securely store copies of your physical documents in a safe location that your family or advocates can locate. Then sign in to your MyAdvocate account to indicate where they are stored (you can customize who has access to this information).
- Visit the community tab on MyAdvocate.com to notify those you have named as your advocates. Proactively engaging the people involved in your estate plan increases the likelihood of your final wishes being carried out promptly and accurately.
Build your legacy with confidence and clarity
Creating and notarizing your will is one of the best ways to protect your legacy and secure your family’s future. With the rise of online notary services, it’s never been easier to validate your estate planning documents. Ensuring your will is signed and notarized before you pass away will make a difficult time a little easier for your loved ones.