Posts tagged notarization
What are the the witness requirements of a Will?

The witness requirements for a witnessed Will can be confusing as there are several requirements needed to create a valid Will. The following rules also apply to Codicils.


Except for holographic Wills, every Will must be witnessed by at least two people. Indeed, some estate planning lawyers will arrange to have three witnesses during the signing of a Will. This may be especially helpful if a witness dies, becomes incapacitated, or cannot be located and there's a need to get the testimony of a witness who was living at the time the Will was signed.


Each of the witnesses must be present at the time the Testator signs his or her Will. Alternatively, the witnesses must be present while the Testator acknowledges that the signature on the Will is his. Although the witnesses don't have to sign the Will in front of the Testator or each other, it often does not make sense to do otherwise. 

Understand Document as Testator's Will

The witnesses must also understand that the document the Testator is signing is his or her Will. Sometimes, a lawyer may request that the Testator acknowledge in front of the witnesses that the document they are about to sign is his or her Will, just to make it abundantly clear to all who are present.


Notarizing a Will has no legal effect by itself. A Will must be witnessed by at least two people.

What rules need to be followed when signing estate planning documents?

The laws in California have specific requirements when it comes to signing estate planning documents. Some require witnesses, whereas others require notarization or other formalities.

For example, certain types of Wills need to be signed by the Testator (creator of the Will) and the signature must be witnessed by at least 2 other people, all of whom should sign the Will. If a document needs to be recorded at the Recorder's Office, then the document must be notarized. 


These laws are enacted for your protection. They help ensure that you understand the seriousness of your actions. The formalities may also have the effect of preventing others from forging your name and/or giving notice to the public as to the ownership of your assets, such as with recording of deeds at the Recorder's Office. 

Out-of-State Estate Planning Documents

For people moving to California that already have an existing estate plan, a concern is whether those documents are effective under California law. As a general rule, if the documents followed the formalities of the state where you are moving from, then it should be valid under California law. For a specific statute involving a Will, see California Probate Code Section 6113.