Probate Commissions, Self-Proving Wills

Missouri law requires that two (2) individuals witness the execution of a will by a testator in order for it to be valid. Anybody who is an adult and of competent mental capacity may witness the will, but an interested witness may forfeit his/her share under the will. An “interested witness” generally refers to someone who has a financial interest in an estate or who is otherwise affected by the will.
When it comes time to present the will to the county probate court, the witnesses must either appear in person to testify that they witnessed the will or execute commissions affirming under oath that they witnessed the will. This can be a huge pain, particularly if the witnesses’ whereabouts are unknown — or, worse yet, if they’ve moved or passed away.
Because of this hardship, Missouri laws wills to be “self-proving.” A self-proving will is one in which a notary public also signs and verifies the will affirming that the testator and the witnesses signed the documents in his/her presence. If a will is self-proving, then a probate court will not require that the witnesses appear in court or execute a commission — unless a will contest occurs (See: Missouri Will Contests).
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