This is a common misconception I hear from clients and the answer is no, a will is not signed before a notary public but must be signed before two witnesses. Once the testator (the person signing the will) has signed, the witnesses sign below what is called an “attestation clause” in which they attest to the fact that they witnessed the testator sign the will in their presence. A sample attestation clause is attached below.
The witnesses should then sign what is called a “self-proving affidavit” which is attached to the will in which they state that they witnessed the testator signing the will and that the testator was of sound mind, etc. This affidavit is signed before a notary public. A sample self-proving affidavit is attached below.
A will can still be probated without a self-proving affidavit attached to it however if it is missing, affidavits from the witnesses must then be obtained and submitted with the original will. Often if a substantial period of time has elapsed from when the will was signed and submitted for probate, the witnesses may not be easily located. This may complicate the probate procedure incurring additional legal fees and other expenses.
For a discussion of the probate process in New York please refer to my blog post: http://www.dippellaw.com/wordpress/what-does-it-mean-to-probate-a-will/
To ensure that your will may be probated without unnecessary complications be sure to retain the services of an attorney experienced in wills and probate.