We are often asked to Notarize wills.
The problem is that there are many ways to notarize a document. Sometimes clients ask us to “just stamp it”. Please note that our seals and stamps are not arbitrary. They must always be accompanied by some sort of statement. We cannot “just stamp” a document.
Let’s explore all the ways that a Will can be notarized:
1) WITNESSING THE SIGNATURE OF THE TESTATOR
In limited cases, we can notarize an original will by stating that we witnessed the Testator sign the will. This only applies to wills that will be used outside of Canada and where the client is certain that additional witnesses are not needed and affidavits of exection are not needed. For this to happen, the Testator has to attend our office with government-issued photo ID and sign in front of us, ideally along with one other witness.
2) AFFIDAVITS OF EXECUTION ONLY (our preferred method)
If a will has already been witnessed by two individuals then those witnesses can attend our office to sign affidavits of execution. An affidavit of execution is a document where someone swears that they saw someone else sign a document (in this case, a will). The notary will commission the affidavits and stamp the will with an exhibit stamp, making the will an exhibit to the affidavits.
This is usually the only option available in cases where the testator is not available, usually because the testator has died.
3) CERTIFIED COPY OF THE WILL
In this case we would make a photocopy of an original will and state on the photocopy that the copy is a true copy of the original which we have seen. Anyone can bring the original will for us to certify because we do not need to witness anyone’s signature.
Which is the right method? Should you choose 1, 2, or 3? Or all?
This depends entirely on what you are trying to accomplish and/or what a third-party has requested from you. For example, banks often require a certified copy of a will for their records. They might instruct you to “Notarize the will”. If that is the case, seek clarification. Ask: “Do you want me to have a notary witness the signature of the testator or do you want me to have the notary make a copy of the original will and certify that the copy is a true copy of the original?”
Please note, that in the example above, the Notary will not know what the bank wants from you. You have to find out. At Walk-In Notary, we do not contact third parties (i.e. the recipient) on your behalf. And without communicating with the recipient there is no way to know exactly what they require. You can read more about our policies and requirements on our instructions page.
For information regarding the administration of wills, we recommend carefully reviewing Ontario’s website on this topic.