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Notary Bulletin

FAQ: The Difference Between A 'Living Will' And A Last Will And Testament

Will-and-testament-resized.jpgYou may be asked at some point to notarize either a “living will” or a last will and testament. While the names are very similar, these two types of documents have completely different purposes. To prevent misunderstandings that may lead to notarization errors, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about “living wills” versus wills and testaments.

How Is A ‘Living Will’ Different From A Last Will And Testament?
A last will and testament is a document providing instructions for the disposition of a signer’s estate and finances after the signer’s death. Depending on state law, it may also address such matters as disposition of the remains of the deceased and guardianship of children. A “living will,” however, refers to a written statement of a signer’s wishes concerning medical treatment in the event the signer’s health condition prevents the individual from providing instructions on his or her own behalf.

Are there any special rules when notarizing a ‘Living Will?’
No, a “living will” may be notarized normally. While there are an abundance of statutory rules for wills, this is not the case with “living wills.” Of course, all practices required by law, such as the signer appearing in person before the Notary and being positively identified, should be followed.

Can a last will and testament be notarized normally?
Last wills and testaments are complex documents, and Notaries must be careful when asked to notarize them. In some states notarization of a will is not required by law, in others it may be one of several witnessing options. A document presented to a Notary as a last will and testament should be notarized only if clear instructions and appropriate notarial certificates are provided for the Notary. Certain “self-proving” wills may require notarization of the signatures of witnesses as well as the signature of the testator.

What should I do if a signer has questions about notarizing a last will and testament?
Ideally, a signer should obtain precise directions from an attorney before requesting that a will be notarized, since the slightest variance from state law may invalidate a will. Some handwritten wills may be invalidated if notarized. Notarization by itself does not make a will “legal” or “valid” and it is important that Notaries do not offer any advice regarding preparation or the legal effects of a will. A Notary may not determine what type of notarial act or certificate is needed for a last will and testament, even if asked to do so by the signer. Such questions should be referred to a qualified attorney.


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01 Apr 2017

Can I handwrite my "Living Will" instructions and then get it notarized? THank You.

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we cannot advise you whether or not a handwritten living will document is acceptable in your state. You should speak with your primary care physician or an attorney about any questions regarding your state's requirements for preparing a living will.

Michelle McPheeters

19 Sep 2017

In Ohio is it required a last will in testament be notarized?

National Notary Association

20 Sep 2017

Hello Michelle. Any questions regarding the legal requirements for preparing a will would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Kimberly Tate

05 Jul 2018

If a last will and testament is drawer up by a lawyer does it have to be notarized by a notary???

National Notary Association

06 Jul 2018

A last will and testament is a complex and sensitive legal document that can take different forms, depending on state law. Some wills legally require notarization, some do not and may actually be invalidated if they are notarized, and some allow notarization as one of several witnessing options. Notaries must never offer advice on how to execute a will, because they could be held liable for a named beneficiary's failure to inherit assets if the will is improperly done and therefore invalidated.

Jenny Wilson

03 Jul 2019

I was wonder if a letter that said “oath” on top, I’m guessing part of the will. Can it be notarized after this signed has passed away

National Notary Association

22 Jul 2019

Hello. It is not possible to notarize the signature of a deceased person, as there is no way for the deceased to personally appear before the Notary, present identification or verify the signer's willingness and awareness.

16 Jan 2020

can i notarize my mother's living will if i am listed as a healthcare agent

National Notary Association

16 Jan 2020

Many states prohibit Notaries from notarizing if the Notary is named in the document or is a party to the document. If you can tell us what state you are commissioned in, we can provide you with more information specific to your jurisdiction.

05 Nov 2020

I'm in WA state, Can I notarized my co-worker's last will?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2020

Hello. Wills are complex legal documents, and Notaries should not proceed with notarizing unless provided with authoritative legal instructions. For more information, please see here:


16 Nov 2020

We live in N.Y. On a low fixed income. Want to know how to do a living will and can a relative that is a Notary, notarize it?

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2020

Hello. Any questions about preparing a legal document would need to be answered by a qualified professional authorized to give legal advice about the document, such as an attorney.

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