In today’s blog entry in our ongoing series on basic questions about estate planning, we are going to look at the self-proving affidavit. Last week we looked at video wills and why, though they are not a valid substitute for a last will and testament, they play a potentially important role in your estate plan. Self-proving affidavits play a similar role. Though they are not absolutely necessary, they can be very useful. In fact, self-proving affidavit is almost always included with an estate plan because they are so useful. Here’s what you need to know about the self-proving affidavit and your Florida estate plan.
What is an affidavit?
When it comes to courts, evidence, and statements by witnesses, it isn’t always possible to bring people before a judge, have them take an oath or affirmation to be truthful, and then pose questions to them so that their answers may be received by the court as evidence. As a way to allow people outside of a courtroom to make statements that can be used as evidence, the legal system allows people to create affidavits.
An affidavit is essentially a written document in which a person makes statement he or she affirms or swears to be true. That person must make those statements in the presence of a licensed public official, such as a public notary, and must do so with the understanding that any falsehoods can be punished as perjury. Once made, an affidavit can serve as evidence before a court.
What is a self-proving affidavit?
A self-proving affidavit is a special kind of affidavit that serves a particular purpose. When you create a last will and testament you have to make sure that you sign the document, and do so in the presence of two witnesses who then sign it as well. After you die, someone will have to take your will before a Florida court, at which time the court will have to determine whether the document meets the signature requirements. Part of this process will require the court to have the witnesses testify that not only did they sign the will, but that they also saw the testator sign it as well.
However, if the witnesses completed a self-proving affidavit at the time they signed the will in the presence of the testator, the court will not have to ask them to testify. The court can simply accept the self-proving affidavit in place of their testimony.
Is a self-proving affidavit required?
No, but there is almost never a reason why you should not have one. It’s much easier to sign your will, have the witnesses sign, and then have them execute the self-proving affidavit all in a single step. This ceremony, known as the signing ceremony, can easily be arranged by your estate-planning attorney.