One of the most common problems with legal documents arises when you take your documents to the bank to be signed, witnessed or notarized. An employee of a bank may be able to witness your document or notarize it, but what the employee cannot do is give you legal advice about the document or what legally is required for the document to be valid.
What is A Will?
A classic example is a Will or Codicil (which is an amendment to a will). To be valid, a will and a codicil must either be entirely in your handwriting, or they must signed by you and two witnesses. A will is self- proved if it has a self-proving affidavit attached or it is simultaneously executed, attested and made self- proved.
Note that it is not enough for the will just to be notarized; for it to be self- proved, it must contain the self- proving affidavit or the required language to make it self- proved.
So What Can The Bank Do With My Legal Documents?
Why can’t the bank do all that? A bank can provide witnesses, a bank can provide a notary, but a bank cannot review your document and give you legal advice as to whether or not your document is in proper legal form.
I recently had a client bring in a codicil to a will that was signed, witnessed and notarized at the bank, but it didn’t have the proper self- proving language. As a result, it will be difficult to prove the validity of the will in court.
I urge everyone to have a lawyer prepare their legal documents, or at least review the documents before signature.
Robert Morris is an Elder Law, Estate Planning, Guardianship and Medicaid Attorney at Hammerle Finley Law Firm.