A self-proving will is a will that includes an affidavit signed by a notary public, witnesses and the testator, showing that the will was signed properly and that it is the will of the person signing it. Most jurisdictions accept a self-proving will in lieu of a traditional will. Many people feel that the greatest benefit of having a self-proving will is that witnesses and beneficiaries are not required to appear in court to testify that the will is valid. This also can ensure that the probate process is smooth and easy for everyone involved.
With a traditional will, the executor, or the person responsible for seeing that the terms of the will are carried out, must handle the administration of the will. This can involve hiring an attorney, locating documents, notifying interested parties, paying claims by creditors and many other items. The witnesses to the will must be located, and interested parties can contest any part of the will in a court of law. This can be a lengthy process.
When an individual has a self-proving will, the court can accept it as valid. The court then can proceed with probate, the process by which a court pays debts and distributes assets after a death. Having a self-proving will can be helpful if a witness cannot be located or is deceased. In this situation, the will can still serve as the document by which the court pays any debts determined to be valid and distributes assets to beneficiaries.
Most jurisdictions in countries such as the United States will accept a self-proving will as a legally binding document, but it is important to check the laws of the jurisdiction in which the estate is located. Many places will require different documentation, a specific format or a certain number of witnesses to sign. It also is important to make updates to a will when circumstances change, such as when a home is purchased, a child is born or major assets are acquired.
Some jurisdictions allow a will that was not initially self-proving to be made into a self-proving will. It is important to check with the individual jurisdiction, because requirements are different for each one. Some places require all original witnesses to be present in order to sign the self-proving affidavit in front of a notary public.
In addition to each jurisdiction requiring specific documentation, a specific format or a certain number of witnesses, specific wording also might be required in a self-proving will. All wording should be appropriate so that the self-proving will is legally binding. This also will help the probate process take place without any interruptions.