CORAL SPRINGS, Florida – Notarizing a Last Will and Testament is not technically required to comply with the terms of Florida law. But Gary M. Landau, P.A., a Coral Springs attorney for wills, trusts, and other documents, highly recommend a notary public be present at the signing.
To notarize a Will, the testator (the person making the Will) must sign it in the presence of two witnesses. In addition, the testator and two witnesses can optionally sign an additional document prepared by the attorney known as a self-proving affidavit. The notary public then signs and stamps the self-proving affidavit, verifying that the testator and the witnesses are in fact the people signing all the documents.
“While notarizing these signatures on the self-proving affidavit is an extra step compared to simply signing a Will in front of witnesses, it will save your heirs time and challenges after you are gone,” Landau says. “This small step makes a big difference in later expediting the probate process.”
Landau cites numerous benefits to notarizing the self-proving affidavit that becomes part of the Will, including:
- Speeding up the probate process. When there is not a notarized affidavit accompanying the Will, the two witnesses to the signing must later be found and asked to sign a different affidavit or to appear in court to testify to the Will’s validity. Finding witnesses who may have moved or even passed away years after they witnessed the signature can be a lengthy and expensive process. By contrast, if a notarized self-proving affidavit accompanies a Will, the Florida probate courts will accept the Will as validly signed without requiring witness testimony.
- Preventing fraud and forgery. Since the notary public verifies the identity of the testator, generally by checking their driver’s license, the chance of someone fraudulently creating a Will in another person’s name is reduced.
Everyone, no matter their age or health status, should have a valid and properly executed Will, according to Landau.
“Establishing a Will is critical for various reasons, including designating who will inherit your property, money, and other valuables, and, for people with minor children or other dependents, to designate their choice of a legal guardian if they tragically pass away. Having a Will helps your heirs best understand your wishes once you are gone and are not longer able to articulate them,” he says.
Heirs are also helped when the process of probate goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Probates in Florida are a court procedure, where a judge must accept the Will as valid and then oversees the collection and distribution of assets according to its terms. This is where having the notarized self-proving affidavit that accompanies the Will comes in.
“Even though Florida law does not technically require citizens to have a notarized document accompanying their Will, taking this step is the best way to ensure a smoother probate process for your loved ones,” Landau says.
Notaries are often available in a probate attorney’s office. Banks and other entities typically have a notary on staff as well.
About the LAW OFFICE of GARY M. LANDAU, P.A.
With more than 25 years of experience and countless satisfied clients, Gary M. Landau and his team are uniquely positioned to help you with your probate and real estate needs in South Florida. Whether you’re ready to probate a loved one’s estate or to write your own will, or if you are purchasing a home, have inherited a home, or want a closing agent to handle title insurance and all documents for your closing or refinancing, the Law Office of Gary M. Landau is ready to work with you.