A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement attached to a will. The affidavit is signed by the will-maker and witnesses, and it attests to the validity of the will. It is not necessary to include a self-proving affidavit -- a properly written, signed, and witnessed will is legal without it. But including one may help make probate go more quickly.
If your will goes through probate, your executor must "prove" the validity of the will to the probate court. Proving a will involves convincing the court that the will document really is the will of the person it purports to be. Methods for proving a will vary, but many courts will require the witness to appear at court, either personally or by sworn statement. If there is any trouble locating a witness, it could cause problems or delays with probate. But if you include a self-proving affidavit with your will, the affidavit itself proves the will without any additional statements from the witnesses. This could speed up the probate process -- something your loved ones are sure to appreciate.
To learn more about probate, go to the Probate section of Nolo.com.
Whether you can use a self-proving affidavit depends on the law of your state. Most states allow the use of self-proving affidavits, but there are a few exceptions.
The District of Columbia and Ohio do not provide the option to include a self-proving affidavit; your will must be proved to the probate court after your death.
Other states allow your will to be self-proved without a self-proving affidavit. In these states, as long as you sign and witness your will correctly, no additional steps are needed to prove your will to the probate court, and there is no need to make a self-proving affidavit. These states are:
In states other than those listed above, a self-proving affidavit will help your will move more quickly through probate.
You do not need to make a self-proving affidavit to make a valid will. Self-proving affidavits, where available, are entirely optional. In every state, to make a valid will you need to:
To learn more about how to make a valid will, read Executing a Will.
If you want a self-proving affidavit and you hire a lawyer to write your will, ask him or her to include one. If you write your will yourself, the program you use should include a self-proving affidavit as an option. If not, most states include sample language for a self-proving affidavit in their statutes. Just go to the wills section of your state's law and look for a section about the self-proving option. For help with this, and to learn more about looking up your state law, go to the Legal Research section of Nolo.com.