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Does a will/testament have to be notarized?

Lindale, TX |

I recently went in to record my will/testament and the clerk wanted to force the issue of only accepting it notarized. I had 4 witnessed signatures on it and tried my best explaining wills did not need to be notarized in Texas. She refused and said I must visit their in-house lawyer because they don't notarize unless he says so. I went and the lawyer looked at my will and said it was frivolous and that my will would not help me? He was angry enough to call security to have me escorted out of the building. I'm not sure if he was just having a very bad day or what, but he was extremely unprofessional in his actions. I never asked for his input, only wanted to ask why my will needed to be notarized before being recorded? I've checked the laws here and wills do not have to be notarized

Attorney Answers 3

  1. I am sorry that you were not treated courteously by the county attorney's office. But perhaps, he may have done you a favor. Under Texas law a Will does not have to be "notarized" to be a valid Will. In fact, merely be "notarized" will not make it a valid Will. But, it sounds like you tried to file or record your Will in the County Clerk's office while you are still living. The County Clerk cannot accept anything for filing in the official records of the county unless at least one signature on it is "notarized." So, you have two different issues here. One pertains to whether or not the Will is valid. The other pertains to whether or not you can file a document in the county records without a notarized signature. The county clerk sent you to the office of the County Attorney. He looked at your Will and called it frivolous. He may have been trying to help you by letting you know that the Will was not a very good Will or that other elements of it made it invalid. If you prepared this Will without the benefit of the advice and direction of an experienced estate planning lawyer, then you probably messed it up. I recommend that you consult an experienced estate planning lawyer in your county. You may think you have accomplished what you wanted but if the Will cannot be admitted to probate after you death then your property will pass to your heirs according to Texas law and that may not be what you wanted. Normally, Wills are not filed in a public record until after the death and then they are filed with the court handling probate matters. Not with the county clerk.

    DISCLAIMER: This is not specific legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

  2. I agree with my colleague and only want to add that the prospect of dying intestate (without a working will) in Texas is a really bad idea. The "default" process of property distribution in Texas is notoriously complex and occasionally gives headaches to even experienced legal practitioners. You are much better off simply hiring an attorney to make sure everything is done correctly in the eyes of the law as well as in accordance with what you want.

    My answers to the questions are for general informational purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. Accuracy of answers is not guaranteed, as my answers contain broad assumptions -- as such, you may not be able to rely on the answer under the facts of your specific case. There are no "one size fits all" legal solutions because even slight changes in fact situations may require a material variance in the applicable advice. Once again, I am not your attorney.

  3. My colleagues have provided sound advice. The circumstances you described are terrible, but there may be a silver lining. IF the in-house attorney said the will was frivolous, perhaps he noted issues or errors. This is a great opportunity to take your document to a local estate planning attorney for review. Then, you will be able to get an in depth analysis of the will to determine if it actually provided as you wish. Good luck.

    ** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ** My response above is not legal advice and it does not establish an attoreny-client relationship. When responding to questions posted on Avvo, I provide a general purpose response based on California law as I am licensed in California. In reviewing my response, you are specifically advised that your use of, or reliance upon any response I provide is not advisable. I do not have all relevant background details or facts related to your issue / matter, thus I am not in a position to give you legal advice. Further, your review, use of, or reliance upon my response does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us nor does it qualify as a legal consultation for any purpose. For specific advice regarding your particular circumstances, you should consult and retain local counsel. For more information, you can reach my office at: or by calling: 818-279-2737.

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