Does a notarized document take precedence over a non-notarized one?

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Does a notarized document take precedence over a non-notarized one?

My mother recently passed away. In 08/00 she stated the way she wanted her household property etc. disposed of. The document was signed by her and notarized. In 10/09 she signed another document changing her wishes of the disposition. It was not notarized or witnessed but just her signature. Which one of the documents takes precedence?

Asked on November 12, 2010 under Estate Planning, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The issue is not notarization per se...it's whether one, both or neither documents were executed properly as a will. The only documents that can provide for how property is distributed when someone passes is a will, and will's are subject to very technical requirements; a will that does not meet those requirements is invalid. So the possibilities are:

1) Both documents are validly executed wills--will pass by the second document, since a later valid will supercedes and earlier one.

2) First document validly executed, second is not--first one will control.

3) Second document valid, first not--second one will control.

4) Neither document valid--will pass by intestate succession (how the law says property passes in the absence of a will).

You should bring the documents to a trusts and estates attorney (they are the ones who do wills) who will be able to evalute them and their circumstances and tell you if one, another, or both are valid and what will happen.


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