I met with a client this week who proudly showed me her old will. It was a fine legal document. It left her assets to her husband and then her kids. It set up a guardian for the kids. It named an executor. It was a fine will. As she pointed out there was a major typo in that one of her kids wasn’t included in part of the disposition paragraph but she believed that may have been her fault in setting it up. She acknowledged that she set it up on legalzoom.com
She also proudly showed me the notary page. What? The notary page? For a will? In California wills are not notarized. The other documents, like powers of attorney, are to be notarized but not the wills. The notary should have known better but they didn’t. I am a California notary and it seems to be that every time I have studied for the notary exam I have been reminded that we can not notarize a will.
The law is set forth in California Probate Code 6110(c) which reads:
“(c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the will shall be
witnessed by being signed, during the testator’s lifetime, by at
least two persons each of whom (A) being present at the same time,
witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator’s
acknowledgment of the signature or of the will and (B) understand
that the instrument they sign is the testator’s will.”
Notice it says the will shall be witnessed by two persons. In fact, a notary can be one witness but they wouldn’t notarize the will. Instead they would sign the witness block.
Again, as stated before, Legal Zoom may create perfectly fine legal documents. However, if you don’t execute it properly all you have is a pile of paper! I am confident that Legal Zoom probably sends detailed instructions for signing the will. However, if it’s done right it’s as if it’s not done!
Get your will done right! Hire an estate planning attorney and make sure the will is signed and witnessed properly!