The last will and testament of a person is a very important document for their family or organization as it determines how his assets will be distributed after they pass. The notary public plays a very important role when it comes to such documents. The laws regarding the execution of wills and testaments vary from state to state.
For any notary, dealing with wills and testament can be tricky. Generally, a will requires a testator (male) or testatrix (female), i.e., the person making the will. It also requires two witnesses who are not related to the principal signer. The principal signer is required to acknowledge the will while the two witnesses have to give oaths. States generally advise against individual notaries dealing with wills. It is generally taken up by law firms that specialize in wills.
Here are some tips for you in case you are required to notarize wills and testaments.
Handwritten wills and testaments
In most states, a will written entirely by the testator is valid and legally enforceable. However, you need to be careful as a notary while dealing with handwritten wills. You should only notarize those handwritten wills where the testator provides an appropriate notarial certificate. If that is not the case and you notarize the will, then the will becomes invalid.
Assessing the notarial certificates
While notarizing wills and testaments, you should carefully assess the notarial certificates. As mentioned earlier, notarization of will requires two witnesses. The signature of these witnesses needs to be notarized as well. While notarizing real estate documents, the notary usually acts as the witness as well as the notary. However, the same is not allowed for wills and testaments. The notary can only sign the will from the capacity of a notary public.
Signer’s willingness to sign
Wills and testaments and usually prepared by elderly people as they wish to avoid disputes regarding the division of assets after their death. Elderly people are vulnerable and there is definitely a possibility that the testator is signing the will under the influence of someone else. A notary must make sure that the principal signer is going forward with the will without any pressure from any end. It is the responsibility of the notary to ensure that the testator is signing the will after completely understanding the nature and effect of the will.
Declining to notarize
A notary should notarize a will only when there is a pre-printed certificate or instructions for the notary. If the will does not have either of the two, then you should ask the person to get in touch with an attorney. The testator should always hire a good attorney to ensure the smooth execution of the will. Sloppy execution will ultimately cause the will to be thrown out in probate court.
Wills and testaments are not those documents that a notary encounters in everyday work. It is understandable if you feel uncomfortable about notarizing wills as you need to be extra careful. If you don’t feel like going ahead with it, there is no harm in politely declining to notarize the will.