How Does Remote Notary Validate Your Last Will and Testament?
5 min read

How Does Remote Notary Validate Your Last Will and Testament?

Why are notaries useful? What are the steps to notarize my Will? In this article, we'll go over the basics of a remote notary and how this can validate your important documents! Keep reading to learn more!

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A notary, also known as a notary public, is a public official who serves as an impartial witness to various legal and financial transactions. The primary role of a notary is to verify the identity of individuals signing important documents and to ensure the authenticity and legality of those documents. Notaries play a crucial role in preventing fraud and maintaining the integrity of legal and financial transactions.

Today, most states allow for some transactions to be notarized virtually. The tipping point for remote notarization services happened during the COVID-19 pandemic when there was an explosion of interest in online estate planning. Being able to draft and notarize legal documents without leaving home is here to stay. In this article, we'll talk about how a remote notary service can help validate your Last Will and Testament.

What are the Responsibilities of a Notary?

Here are some key responsibilities and functions of a notary:

  • Identity Verification: Notaries confirm the identity of the parties involved in a transaction by checking their government-issued identification documents, such as driver's licenses, passports, or state-issued ID cards.

  • Witnessing Signatures: Notaries witness the signing of documents by the involved parties. They ensure that the signatures on the documents match the individuals' signatures on their identification.

  • Administering Oaths and Affirmations: In some cases, notaries can administer oaths or affirmations to people who need to make sworn statements or affidavits.

  • Certifying Copies: Notaries may certify copies of original documents as true and accurate copies. This can be useful for legal or official purposes.

  • Acknowledging Signatures: Notaries acknowledge that the parties voluntarily signed the documents and that they understood the content and implications of the documents they signed.

  • Maintaining Records: Notaries typically maintain a log or record of the transactions they notarize, including details about the documents, parties involved, and the date and location of notarization.

What Kinds of Documents Can Be Notarized Remotely?

Any kind of document that can be notarized in person can also be notarized virtually. Common types of documents that often require notarization include:

  • Real estate documents (such as deeds, mortgages, and property transfers)

  • Legal contracts and agreements (such as the contract for the purchase of a business) 

  • Wills and estate planning documents

  • Powers of Attorney

  • Affidavits and sworn statements

  • Adoption papers

  • Financial documents (such as loan agreements and promissory notes)

Who Can Become a Notary?

Notaries public are appointed by state governments and have the authority to perform notarial acts within their jurisdiction. The requirements to become a notary, including education, training, and application processes, vary from state to state in the United States. Notaries must adhere to strict ethical standards and follow applicable state laws and regulations.

Why Are Notaries Useful for Wills and Trusts?

Generally, the presence of a notary and their official seal on a document can lend credibility and legal weight to the document, making it more likely to be accepted by government agencies, financial institutions, courts, and other parties involved in legal or financial transactions. 

Notarizes have a key function for people drafting their Wills and Trusts. While the majority of states don't mandate notarization for a Will to be legally binding, opting for notarization offers several advantages. When a Will is notarized, it obtains the status of being "self-proving." A Will is "self-proving" when it incorporates an affidavit or a sworn statement signed by the witnesses. This affidavit serves as compelling evidence that the will was executed correctly and that the individual creating the Will (referred to as the "testator") possessed the necessary testamentary capacity during the signing process.

The inclusion of a self-proving affidavit streamlines the probate process by eliminating the requirement for witnesses to testify in court to validate the Will's authenticity. As a result, probate proceedings become quicker and more efficient. Conversely, without a self-proving affidavit, the probate court might compel witnesses to the Will to attend court and provide sworn testimony regarding the Will's execution. This can prove inconvenient and may not always be feasible, particularly if the witnesses are deceased or otherwise inaccessible.

In some cases, a court questions the validity of a person's Will, particularly if someone questions whether that is truly your signature on the document. These issues often arise when a person is elderly and a family member questions whether they truly drafted the document. Online notarization can provide reassurance to a court that the signature on the document is authentically yours. In addition, notarizing a Will helps prevent fraud. If someone tries to pass off their signature as your own, it is less likely to be accepted if there is already a Will that has been authenticated. This is a key way that remote notarization can deter fraud and identity theft. 

Steps to Notarizing Your Will

After you've successfully completed and signed your Will, the remote notarization process is straightforward. Here are the basic steps:

Find an Online Notary: Begin by locating a notary public in your state. You can conduct an online search or simply let FastWill connect you with OnlineNotaryCenter, which can immediately connect you with a notary.

Produce a Government-Issued Photo ID: To verify your identity, ensure you upload a government-issued photo identification.

Bring Your Witnesses: Having at least two witnesses with you during the appointment enables you to properly authenticate your Will. 

Upload Your Finished Will: Provide the notary with the final copy of your Will. They will review it to ensure all pages are present, properly signed, and dated in accordance with legal requirements.

Signing in the Notary's Presence: You and the witnesses will sign the Will online in the presence of the notary. The notary will then proceed to complete their notarization certificate, typically including their official stamp or seal.

Protecting Your Last Wishes with FastWill

If you have started the process of writing your estate plan, notarizing your legal documents will give you even more peace of mind. A notarized Will enables you to completely protect your wishes since a court is then highly likely to accept your Will to probate with no additional steps. To begin protecting your last wishes, identify two people who you want to witness your Will. Some states have specific legal requirements about who can be a witness, but a general rule of thumb is that you should choose someone who will not inherit from the Will. 

Once you've gathered your witnesses, arrange for them to participate in a virtual meeting with your online notary. FastWill works directly with OnlineNotaryCenter to help you notarize your Will by simply clicking on a Zoom link when you complete your Will. Then, you and your witnesses will meet with a notary public who will take you through the steps toward notarization in your jurisdiction.

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