How to get your documents notarized
A last will and testament (or will) is a legal document that explains how you want your assets and property distributed after you die. When you pass away, your will is presented to a probate court. The court will verify your will and then oversee the distribution of your property to your loved ones.
What is a notary?
A notary is a person authorized by the government to witness the signing of important documents, and confirm the identity and competency of the people who sign them.
When someone dies and their will is brought to the probate court, the court calls the witnesses to confirm the document is authentic. This process can take time, especially if a witness has died or lives far away.
Does my will have to be notarized?
As of July 2022, Louisiana is the only state that requires your will to be notarized. If you live in any other state, you don’t have to have your will notarized for it to be valid. However, state laws do change over time, and you should make sure you have the most recent information when making your will.
In most states, you have the option to make your will “self-proving” by including a self-proving affidavit.
What is a self-proving affidavit?
A self-proving affidavit is a notarized document signed by your witnesses, in which they swear:
- You are who you say you are
- The will truly belongs to you
- You signed it when you were of sound mind, and not under pressure from someone else
The affidavit is then witnessed and signed by a notary.
By “proving” your will with a self-proving affidavit, you can speed up probate court proceedings because the court doesn’t need to contact your witnesses.
While a self-proving affidavit is an optional step that can make the probate process smoother and faster for the court and your loved ones, it is not an option in all states. Currently, Ohio and Washington, D.C. don’t allow the use of self-proving affidavits.
How to add a self-proving affidavit to your will
If you’d like to add a self-proving affidavit to your FreeWill will document, you can do so by selecting 'Yes' to the self-proving affidavits question under the 'Provisions' step of the intake process. Once you've done that, then you will need to re-download your will and the information should then be included.
Where to find a notary
If you would like to include a self-proving affidavit (which requires notarization), many people have been able to locate a Notary in the following places:
- Local Banks
- Post Offices
- Shipping Stores
- Tax Preparation Offices
- Local Courthouses
If you are unsure if any of these places offer notary services in your area, it always helps to call ahead of time to see if there is someone available to assist.
How much does it cost to have a document notarized?
Each state usually sets its own fees in order for notaries to perform notarial acts. Notaries may charge any fee (or none) up to the maximum allowed under their state fee schedule. If you want more information on how much specific notary services cost in your state, we do recommend calling your local notary office ahead of time to find out the current pricing.
An online notary (or eNotary) is a notary service that involves documents being notarized in electronic form. In states where online notarization of estate planning documents is permitted, online notary services can offer people a simple way to securely sign, notarize, and send documents without going to a notary office.
As of August 25, 2021, 34 states had enacted some form of permanent remote online notarization law. However, this is a rapidly changing area and if you have specific questions you should always seek an attorney’s advice. If you are considering using an online notary and would like to learn more, below are a few general resources you may find helpful:
Copyright © 2022 FreeWill Co., a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation. All rights reserved. FreeWill offers online self-help solutions for common estate planning needs and related educational content. Estate planning may implicate both state and federal laws, and estate planning needs will differ based on personal circumstances and applicable law. FreeWill is not a law firm and its services are not substitutes for an attorney’s advice. The information here is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be construed as providing legal or tax advice. This information is general in nature and is not intended to serve as the primary or sole basis for investment or tax-planning decisions. Use of FreeWill’s services is subject to the Terms of Service & Privacy Notice.