You’ve created (or updated) your will. Congratulations! Many people don’t make it this far, but you’re not done yet. You need to spend about fifteen minutes having your will notarized by a notary public. With a little upfront planning, you can make sure your estate and assets are distributed in accordance with your will as quickly as possible to your heirs.
Why do I need a notary for my will?
For a will to be valid, there are a few steps you must take after writing it:
- Your will must be signed (by the testator)
- It must be signed by witnesses (often two other people)
That’s it. Technically, your will is valid. However, when you pass away, your will must be verified, or proven accurate, in court. This process of “proving” a will is called probate.
How does a notary help me?
During probate, a judge may decide to call upon the people who signed your will as witnesses to verify their signatures. But, what if those people have also passed on, or moved far away? What if it’s impossible or inconvenient for them to come before a judge to verify the legitimacy of your will?
The sad result is that your beneficiaries may have to wait longer for your assets to be distributed and your estate to be settled. All that hard work and careful thought you put into your will may be held up by the lack of a “self-proving affidavit.”
A self-proving affidavit is just a short statement added to your will that is notarized by a notary public at the time of signing. It’s a tiny little document that makes probate a whole lot smoother, because witnesses won’t have to be called before a judge to verify their signatures on your will.
It takes all of about fifteen minutes to find a notary and have them notarize a self-proving affidavit, and it’s well worth your time.
Where can I find a notary near me?
The most common mistake people make after completing their will is not putting any prep work into finding a notary public. Most people assume they can show up at their bank, without an appointment, and have a notary notarize their will.
This tactic almost always results in frustration.
Your bank may not have a notary on staff. Or, the notary may not be there when you show up. Or, you may need witnesses with you, which you don’t have. Or, you may encounter a notary without the proper training and confidence to notarize your will.
All of this has only been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, many banks are closed to walk-in traffic, are only available by appointment, or are only open during certain hours. While some states have moved to allow remote notarization, this practice varies.
Especially now, a little prior planning can save you time and hassle.
Finding a Notary – 6 Good Places to Look
The National Notary Association recommends these common places to locate a notary public to assist in signing your will and other legal documents:
- Businesses, including: banks, credit unions, tax or CPA offices, parcel shipping stores, and real estate offices.
- Local AAA offices.
- Government offices, including: town hall, city hall, county courthouse, and public library.
- Attorney offices.
- Business offices at colleges and universities (for college students).
- Online searches at sites like 123notary.com and Notarize.com.
In all of these cases, you will want to call, email or chat ahead of time to verify that a notary is there, when they are available and find out exactly what is required to have your will or other legal document, such as a power of attorney or young adult power of attorney, signed.
In the case of attorney offices, many are hesitant if not unwilling to notarize legal documents that have not been prepared by their offices.
While you may have to travel to a notary, this is not always the case. Some notaries will come to you. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to hire a remote Notary Public to notarize your will online.
What about remote or online notaries?
Especially with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity and availability of online notaries has exploded. According to the National Notary Association, there are 24 states whose notaries may perform remote notarizations temporarily.
Since these are temporary allowances, it’s best to check with your State’s Secretary of State Department website to find out if your state is allowing documents to be notarized online or remotely, and if so, which documents are approved for online notarization.
In some cases, some documents will be allowed and not others. So, if you are trying to have your will notarized by an online service, email or call your secretary of state department first to make sure it’s allowable. Once at your State’s Secretary of State Department page, look for a link for “Notary Public” or “Online Notary Public.” Contact information, forms and other general information should be available there.
What should I bring with me to a notary?
Once you find a notary, contact them directly to make certain they are willing and able to notarize your will or other legal document. Let them know exactly what documents you plan to sign in their presence, who will be signing the documents besides yourself, and whether or not you have witnesses available.
Be sure to ask what fees the notary charges and what forms of payment are accepted. Then, schedule an appointment with the notary for you and your witnesses to meet and sign your will or other document.
Get Your Will or POA Package Now
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