When it’s time to write your will, you may be thinking about what the probate process will be like for your executor and beneficiaries. Since probate can be a lengthy process, you should consider relieving your heirs of an extra step by making your will self-proving.
What Is a Self-Proving Affidavit (Self-Proving Will)?
A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement you attach to a will that helps prove the validity of the will as it goes through the probate process. If you don’t use a self-proving affidavit, the witnesses of the will may need to appear in court to prove its authenticity.
A self-proving affidavit is created by having witnesses sign the affidavit before a notary public, attesting under penalty of perjury that they saw the testator (you) sign the will, that you signed willingly and voluntarily and that you agreed the will contained your intentions for the disposition of your property.
What does it mean if a will is self-proving?
If a will is self-proving, that means the witness signatures don’t need to be proven as part of the probate process. In most states, you can make your will self-proving by attaching an affidavit to the will.
In the following states, wills are considered self-proving (meaning witnesses won’t have to testify in court to prove the will is valid) without an affidavit as long as they meet the state’s attestation and signature requirements:
- California (under certain conditions)
If you live in Louisiana,Ohio or Washington, D.C., you can’t use a self-proving affidavit to validate your will. Unfortunately, your will must go through the probate court with no exceptions.
In the remaining states, a self-proving affidavit can be attached to your will to speed up the probate process.
Why Do I Need a Self-Proving Affidavit?
When a will is probated, it must be validated and authenticated. This means the heirs must go to court and provide evidence that the contents of the will are accurate, the people designated to execute the will are the ones the testator intended to be named, and that the will is legitimate.
Often, the witnesses will be called to court to testify that their signatures on the will are valid and that they witnessed you sign it. This can be a problem if, for instance, witnesses have died or moved away by the time the will needs to be proved.
If your state allows you to use a self-proving affidavit, however, there will be no need for witnesses to appear in court. A self-proving affidavit can also help affirm that the creator of the will wasn’t under any undue influence at the time of their signature.
How To Use a Self-Proving Affidavit
You can download a self-proving affidavit template below. You should always ensure you get the current form for your state since requirements are state-specific.
- Review the language of the document carefully.
- Fill out all blanks. If a section does not apply, write “not applicable” or “N/A” in that section.
- Carefully follow your state’s signature and notarization requirements. In most states, you will need to do the following:
- Sign in the presence of two (2) witnesses and the notary.
- Have each witness sign in one another’s presence and in the presence of the notary.
- Perform all signatures and notarization on the same day.
- The witnesses are affirming under penalty of perjury that they each saw you sign in their own presence and in the presence of the other witness. If these conditions are not met, the affidavit is not considered self-proving.
- Attach the affidavit to your will and all subsequent copies of your will.
Self-Proving Affidavit Sample
Self-Proving Affidavit FAQs
Can I add a self-proving affidavit to an existing will?
Some states allow witnesses to sign an affidavit attesting to the validity of a will without observing the testator’s signature, but most do not. Before you attempt to add a self-proving affidavit to an existing will, you should consult a legal professional to learn the specific probate rules in your state.
Does a codicil need a self-proving affidavit?
A codicil is a document added to your will that modifies or alters parts of your will but leaves other portions intact. You’re not rewriting your entire will. In every state, the codicil must conform to the same signature and witness requirements as the original will.
For this reason, it is a good idea to have a self-proving affidavit added to your codicil since the codicil is considered a separate document from the existing will.