A last will and testament is a legal document that directs how your affairs should be handled after you pass away. The document allows you to specify who you will leave your assets to and in what amounts or shares. You can also designate an individual to be responsible for carrying out the terms of your last will and testament. This person called an executor, or if female, an executrix. Make sure your loved ones know where you will is stored to be able to access it at the appropriate time. Your original will is to be provided to your county’s Register of Wills or Surrogate Office to begin administration of the estate.

A self-proving will is one that has been witnessed and signed in the presence of a notary and includes an affidavit regarding the circumstances at the time of execution. Pennsylvania and New Jersey require at least two (2) witnesses. Prospective witnesses should be disinterested, meaning they are not beneficiaries of the will and have no individual interest. The affidavit acknowledges the presence of the witnesses at the time the will was signed, that the will was executed voluntarily and that to the best of their knowledge, the individual executing the will was of sound mind. Having a self-proved will can reduce the likelihood of will contests during estate administration and streamline the process in terms of not needing to further verify the will.  By April M. Townsend