Most people are aware of the benefits of having a Last Will and Testament. It can make the flow of your property to your chosen beneficiaries proceed much more smoothly as well as allowing you to decide who you want in charge of the process. There are other potential benefits from having this estate planning tool in place when the time comes for the administration of your estate, but the process involved in the preparation of your Last Will holds a key to getting the probate of a Will started smoothly. This involves the inclusion of a self-proving affidavit.
Once your attorney has finished drafting your Will, you need to sign it at the end of the last page. After doing so, you have a valid legal document that will set forth your estate plan. The absence of witnesses does not affect this because Pennsylvania law does not require anyone to be present when you sign to show that you are the testator and that the document is your Last Will and Testament. However, there have to be two people who can verify that your signature appears at the bottom of the Will when the probate process is being started. The person named as executor in your Will would have to find two people to do this if you did not have witnesses at the time that you signed the Will. If there were witnesses, the executor needs to attempt to find them and, if not possible, would have file an affidavit of diligent search and look for a substitute for each missing witness to take the oath verifying your signature when your Will is to be submitted for probate. If no one who can make the identification can be found, then proof of the signatures of the original witnesses will be satisfactory. A self-proving affidavit makes these possible problems disappear.
This reduces the stress and difficulties at some future time and is easily accomplished if your witnesses are ready to sign after they watch you add your signature at the end of your Will. A self-proving affidavit simply involves the witnesses acknowledging that they saw you do this. In general, the witnesses then sign the self-proving affidavit in front of an officer authorized to administer oaths in Pennsylvania – usually, this person will be a notary public. However, if the testator’s signature and this self-proving affidavit signed by two witnesses are undertaken with only an attorney present, then the attorney must prepare a certification of attorney to be included as part of your Will. In either situation, no one will need to hunt for witnesses in the future.
This is main benefit of having a self-proving affidavit attached to a Will. Your executor can take the Will for probate at the appropriate time without any need to try to find witnesses at a time that may be many years after you first was executed this document, when it can be difficult to find these people for any number of reasons. This makes the executor’s job – which may be quite involved and could require years to complete – a little easier at the beginning, at least.