California Wills and Notarization

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California Wills and Notarization

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Being an estate planning attorney as well as a notary, I’ve found that many people do not understand the requirements to sign a will.  Many people find me by looking for a notary in the Vallejo/American Canyon/Napa area, and contact me because they’ve created a will (usually they wrote the will themselves using a form they found online or a will-making program) that they think needs to be notarized.

It’s a little peculiar to most people, but the person creating the will does not need to have his or her signature notarized.  For a California will to be valid, among other requirements, the person signing the will (known as the “Testator”) must sign it in the presence of two witnesses.  The witnesses must sign the will as having witnessed Testator sign (witnesses can do this at any time in the future during Testator’s lifetime).  The witnesses must understand that the document they’re signing is Testator’s will.

To avoid complications when the will is submitted to the probate court after the Testator dies, the witnesses should sign a statement swearing under penalty of perjury that they did in fact witness the signing of the will.  You should consult an attorney to make sure the will contains the proper language because there are very specific statements the witnesses must swear to, and if any are missing or worded incorrectly, it could tie things up years later in the probate court.

And that’s it for signatures!  No notarization necessary!


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Notary Services Now Available

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I’m pleased to announce that I am now a California Notary Public.  The notary certification process was new to me since I’d never had to go through it before.  You see, in Connecticut, attorneys are automatically able to notarize documents without additional notary training.  I’m not sure how many states are like this, but since Connecticut was the first state in which I practiced law, I thought this was the norm.

In 2010, I moved to and practiced law in New York, where, I discovered, attorneys were not automatically notaries.  I learned the same thing upon being admitted to practice in California in 2012.

My decision to seek a notary certification was primarily to provide an additional service as a courtesy my existing clients — if I were to draw up a power of attorney during the estate planning process, I want to be able to notarize that document as well.

I came to learn that notaries provide additional valuable services to the public, as notary signing agents for loan closings.  As a paralegal and attorney in Connecticut, I participated frequently in real estate closings and loan signings, because Connecticut attorneys customarily conduct closings.  In California, this vital service is frequently performed by notaries.  I am pleased and excited to participate in the loan closing process in California, as I used to in Connecticut.