Notarizing a Last Will and Testament: What You Need to Know

A last will and testament is an estate planning document that outlines how a testator's real and personal property, trust funds, digital assets, and other financial accounts will be distributed after their death. In New York, a will must be signed by two witnesses within thirty days of the testator's confirmation of the signing of the document. While it is not required, a testator can have the will notarized by a state-recognized notary public to add an additional layer of legal protection. If you decide to notarize your final will, it is important to carefully review the notarial certificate.

Because two impartial witnesses are generally required, both of whom must have their signatures notarized, the notary would not be able to sign both as a notary public and as a witness to the signing of the will. This differs from real estate documents, where notaries usually sign both functions. Notarizing a last will and testament is an important part of any estate plan. It is the notary's responsibility to ensure that the signatory knows what they are signing (this is called testamentary capacity) and that they have signed it voluntarily and not because of any undue influence.

Adding a self-proven affidavit to your will can speed up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it. However, if you choose not to notarize your will, it is still valid without the self-proof affidavit. If you die without a will in New York State, your estate will be divided according to codified divisions that may not fit your wishes. This is why it is important to create a last will and testament that reflects your wishes for how your assets should be distributed after your death.