You can help simplify the probate process by adding to your will the affidavits (sworn statements) of the witnesses who saw you signing your will. When these affidavits are included with a will, it is sometimes called a “self-probating will.” In the affidavits, the witnesses state that they saw you execute or sign the will, that you asked them to be witnesses to the will, that you appeared mentally competent at the time, and you acted voluntarily. Without these affidavits, the process is more complicated and lengthy. In those cases, the executor would usually need to contact the original witnesses and have them appear in probate court (if they can). Before the personal representative or executor can even file your will in probate court, the witnesses would usually appear in court (or sometimes provide an affidavit) to state the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will. This testimony helps to “prove” that the will is genuine.
Probate courts usually permit your will to be filed along with the affidavits, without the need to summon witnesses or obtain new affidavits. The court then gives notice to other heirs at law who are given a specific amount of time to file any objections to the will being admitted to probate. If any of these choose to challenge your will, the probate court is more likely to require your witnesses to come into court (if they are still available) to testify about the circumstances in which your will was signed. In some states, self-authenticating affidavits are not accepted in situations where the testator dies shortly after the will is signed, or the will was not executed with the assistance of a licensed attorney.