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A self-proving will, or a self-proving affidavit attached to a will, certifies that the witnesses and testator properly signed the will. A self-proving will makes it easy for the court to accept the document as the true will of the person who has died, avoiding the delay and cost of locating witnesses at the time of probate. Such wills are legal in most states. At the time of this writing in late 2007, only Maryland, Ohio, Vermont and the District of Columbia do not permit self-proving wills.
In many states, a will is automatically self-proving when two witnesses sign under penalty of perjury that they observed the willmaker sign the document, and that he told them it was his will. In California, for example, all wills are considered “self-proved” once they are properly signed and executed by the testator and witnesses. If no one contests the validity of the will, the probate court will generally accept it without hearing the testimony of witnesses or other evidence. In other states, such as Louisiana, the testator and two or more witnesses must sign an affidavit, or sworn statement, before a notary public certifying that the will is genuine and that all will-making formalities have been observed.
A self-proving will saves your witnesses and beneficiaries considerable inconvenience by not requiring a court appearance to affirm the will’s validity. It also gives your will an extra layer of authentication that can help your beneficiaries avoid a long and costly probate process, and can be especially helpful when one or more of your witnesses cannot be located or are deceased.
The self-proving affidavit which is part of or attached to a will may be similar to the wording from Louisiana below:
STATE OF LOUISIANA
In my presence the Testator has declared or signified that this instrument is _________________ [his or her] testament and has signed it at the end and on each other separate page, and, in the presence of the Testator and the Witnesses, I have hereunto subscribed my name this ________ day of ____________________, 20______.
|[Notary Seal, if any]:||
(Signature of Notarial Officer)
Notary Public for the State of Louisiana
My commission expires: ___________________
Note that in some states an existing will which was not self-proving when originally executed, can be made self-proving. In New Jersey, for example, an existing will can be turned into a self-proving will if, and only if, all witnesses to the original will are available to sign a short affidavit in the presence of a Notary Public. If the witnesses are not available, the only way to have a self-proving will would be to draw up a new will and fulfill the self-proving requirements of your state.