Q&A on Notarizing Your Estate Plan

man signing documents

To complete any online legal plan preparation (wills, healthcare proxy, power of attorney), your last step is notarizing the documentation.

Here we answer a few questions on notarizing your online estate plan documents including your will, healthcare proxy or power of attorney.

Why should I get my documents notarized?

Not having a document notarized may affect its validity or usefulness. If you can’t get the document notarized, it may affect its validity in front of a court. Even if it is legally valid, it could also affect its usefulness, in terms of whether a bank or financial institution will accept the unnotarized document.

Each state has its own legal requirements to establish validity so you’ll want to check your states rules. The safe bet is to get the notarization to avoid any uncertainty.

What if I cannot get my documents notarized straight away?

Many estate planning documents will still be legally valid without notarization, though they will be more difficult to use and enforce even if they are valid. If for practical reasons you believe you are unable to get to a notary (or have a mobile notary come to you, you may decide that it is better to have something signed, in writing, until you can get to a notary, as there is a chance it could be valid or useful. Even if it is not legally valid, it could be evidence of your wishes. See below for more information on this.

If I just sign the documents, can they be used as evidence of my wishes?

Courts have in the past used un-notarized, signed estate documents as evidence of a decedent’s wishes even in the absence of a legally valid document. This can be important in the event the estate goes through a court-ordered probate process, as the court will always try, where permissible within the law, to implement the decedent’s wishes in how they distribute the estate.

If you sign documents without a notary present, what do I need to do once in front of a notary?

A notary cannot notarize a signature that has already been signed. The document must be signed in the notary’s presence. So, you will always need to bring an un-signed copy of your document with you whenever you meet with a notary.

The status of the signed, but un-notarized copy of your document is a question of fact that would be up to a court to decide, which is why, where possible, it is always better to have the document completed the correct way the first time by having it duly notarized when recommended. But as a general rule, identical copies of legal documents that are not fully executed are typically ignored when there is another identical, complete and executed copy in existence.

I need help, where do I start?

If you need to create a will, healthcare proxy, power of attorney or any estate planning documents, Gentreo can help. We provide an online tool to create your state specific and legally binding documents. You will still need to notarize the documents, but we’ll help you take care of the document preparation affordably.

Find out more about notarization


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