Last Will and Testament (Notary Services)
Updated: Nov 9
I often receive telephone calls to perform notary services for a last will and testament. In New Jersey, the general requirements for a valid Will are usually as follows: (a) the document must be written (meaning typed or printed), (b) signed by the person making the Will (usually called the “testator” or “testatrix”, and (c) signed by two witnesses who were present to witness the execution of the document by the maker and who also witnessed each other sign the document. It is typically notarized by a Notary Public or an attorney. More information can be found at Law Info. Be sure to check with your individual state for the necessary requirements.
I'm often asked to assist the caller with providing the will or other similar documents, which, as a notary public, I am not allowed to do as that is providing legal advice. The best practice is to consult with an attorney. There are websites such as Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer. There are also Do-It-Yourself documents on Amazon. In New Jersey, there is a will registry that is optional.
Notaries public see clients for various reasons but when given the opportunity, I'll often ask if they have a will or a power of attorney, especially because there have been times when I've received a call to see someone who may be at the end of their life and unfortunately there have been times when I've had to refuse to notarize their will or power of attorney because the person was heavily medicated or appeared to have dementia. Regardless of the reason, it's always very sad to have to refuse the family's request. I always encourage people to have their wishes made clear before things progress to that stage.
What is a last will and testament?
A last will and testament is a legal document that expresses a person's wishes for the distribution of their property after their death. It can also be used to appoint a guardian for minor children, a caretaker for pets, and an executor to oversee the administration of the estate.
Why is a last will and testament important?
A last will and testament is important for several reasons. First, it allows you to control how your property is distributed after your death. Without a will, your state's intestate laws will determine how your property is distributed, and this may not be in accordance with your wishes.
Second, a last will and testament can help to avoid family disputes. If your wishes are not clearly expressed in a will, your loved ones may disagree about how your property should be distributed. This can lead to conflict and litigation.
Third, a last will and testament can help to reduce the cost of probate. Probate is the legal process of administering an estate. A well-drafted will can help to make the probate process more efficient and less expensive.
When should I update my last will and testament?
According to most Google searches, you should review and update your will every three to five years. Kiplingers, 12 Different Times When You Should Update Your Will gives several instances when you should consider revising your will, especially where there have been significant changes in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one.
It is also important to review your will if there have been changes in the law that may affect your estate planning. For example, if the tax laws change, you may need to update your will to minimize the estate taxes that your heirs will have to pay.
I am not an attorney licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matter or accept fees for legal advice