I’m in Florida and occasionally get calls to notarize Wills and other estate planning docs. I generally ask the person signing if they are of sound mind and signing of their own free will, if they have read the will, etc. before we get started. I would love to have something that is concrete to read when I do these. I have looked everywhere for some sort of standard language that is to be said to swear everyone in and I can’t find anything. Even the Statute is vague. Does anyone have specific wording that covers everything to swear everyone in that makes sure the will won’t be invalidated? Thank you!
Are you speaking of the text of the:“oath/affirmation” that you administer to the signers (i.e. “Do you solemnly swear/affirm that…”) ? If so, then there are suggestions for what to say in the NNA’s :Florida Notary Primer book (p. 38). There are also suggestions (on p.37-38) as to the type of language to be used when completing the notarial certificates involved. You are, basically, executing a “jurat” (i.e. where the certificate language says, “Sworn and subscribed before me… etc. etc.”).
I have done these several times, both those drawn by the signers and some drawn by an estate planning firm.
My first observation here is you don’t ask the signer if they are of sound mind - even if they aren’t, they’ll say they are - this is a determination you make yourself via speaking with the signer (alone if possible), having a short discussion with them and making sure they are clear as to why you’re there and what they will be signing.
After that, it’s simply a matter of having the will/docs signed properly, making sure they’ve read it over and it is their wishes, then administering an oath to the witnesses and signing a jurat (for the Self-Proving Affidavit).
These docs are usually rather lengthy so can be intimidating and confusing, but all you are doing, really, is complying with notary laws as to acknowledgements or jurats.
P.S. I disagree with Mac3_Notary - do not rely on the NNA Primer - it is historically wrong.
OK, then what language would you use?
I think I’ve already answered that.
Thank you, Linda. I just wanted to make sure I was covering everything. In the future I will leave that bit out about being of sound mind. That makes perfect sense.
The NNA was zero help for this. I searched their site for an answer or example for hours and got nothing-nada.
Thank you but I was referring to swearing the witnesses and Testator in for the will signing ceremony.
Please be clear - I’m not saying don’t consider their mind state - it’s critical that they are of sound mind. But I would not ask the signer directly.
No, I get what you’re saying. Clarity of mind is very important. But don’t bother asking. Just make my own observation(s) and ask any questions needed to clarify or confirm.
No, you didn’t. What specific language would you use? And, BTW, what evidence/proof do you have that the NNA Primer is “historically wrong” in re: this particular issue?
@mag3_notary Please - enough. I have no intention in engaging in a debate or argument with you. IME the primer AND the NNA hotline are not reliable sources…and I stand by my statement.
Now, as to the answer - I did answer it and not going to do it again - @myflaglernotary got it - why don’t you?
You may not need to ask the Testator, but you do need to ask the witnesses to the best of their knowledge and belief the Testator is of sound mind.
You have to at least ask the Testator if he/she is signing of their own free will (depending on the wording in the doc) - if the doc calls for a jurat for the Testator, as many of them do, it would be wise to have them swear to it.
If someone calls you on the phone regarding a will or POA that needs to be signed by their elderly parent, that’s the time to ask if that parent is alert and aware and can communicate with you regarding the document. I always tell them that if I determine that they are not alert and aware, then I cannot go ahead with the notarization.
Also, you’re not swearing anyone in; you’re administering an oath to them, as required by the Jurat.
I would ask the NNA for advice on this matter.
My recommendations always identify that it’s optimum to research/reference multiple sources (not just one) when seeking answers or during the process of edification.
As a business owner, it’s critical to one’s success to regularly implement your critical thinking skills!
You Looking for somthing like this?
I have my signers read this to me before I start
I solemnly swear or affirm, upon penalty of perjury, that:
I am …(state your name); That the signature I will place on these documents is my customary and usual signature;
That I am executing these documents voluntarily for the purposes and the considerations stated therein;
That, with respect to any affisavits, the contents therein are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
I’m in CA and maybe this state handles these things differently… First, an estate plan is not a real estate transaction, so you can just show up, notarize and not explain anything. Second, my wording during the initial call is something like “is there any mental incacacity for any of the signers?” and then react once I hear the answer (i might have to probe if there is an issue). Third, in CA, unless there is a jurat, there is no swearing to anything. Typically estate plan docs are just acknowledged so here there is no “free will” discussions which is to suggest you might not need any specific wording.
When it comes to the will specifically, it isn’t notarized in CA, but I will ask the following:
- do you declare this to be your will?
- are you over 18 yrs of age?
- Have you read and understood this document?
- do you request us (2 witnesses req’d here) to witness the signing of your will?
But this is what I choose to do here and maybe it’s different there.
Agreed wholeheartedly. Never rely on the NNA Hotline or Primer.