Once you’ve written your will, you’ll need to sign it in front of two witnesses to make it legally binding. Witnessing a will is incredibly important to get right, as without this step, your will is just a piece of paper. That means that you need to choose appropriate witnesses and sign the will properly. So, who can witness a will, and what do they need to do? Here’s everything you (and they) need to know.

 

Who CANNOT witness a will?

Perhaps more important than who can sign a will as a witness is who can’t. It’s best to avoid asking someone whose involvement could bring the validity of the will into question. So, do not ask…

Anyone who might profit from the will in some way, so not:

  • Family members
  • Your spouse or civil partner
  • Any of the beneficiaries – these are the people you have left something to in the will
  • Anyone married to or in a civil partnership with a beneficiary of the will
  • Relatives of any of the beneficiaries

OR anyone whose understanding or witnessing of the will signing process could be called into question, so not:

  • Anyone under the age of 18
  • Someone who is fully or partially blind
  • Anyone who might lack the mental capacity to understand what it is they are signing

Remember! If a beneficiary witnesses your will, the will is still valid, but they will automatically lose their inheritance – they won’t receive the gift you are leaving them.

If someone contests the will after you’ve died, the witnesses may be called upon to testify that you (and they) were willing and able to sign the will, and that you all did so properly. They need to be able to say that it is your signature, that you were under no pressure to sign, that you knew it was a will and that they saw you do it.

It’s for this practical reason that witnesses can’t be blind or partially sighted. For a similar reason, it’s also better if you don’t choose someone who usually lives abroad – pick someone who can easily be found if they’re needed to vouch for your will.

 

Who CAN witness a will?

The law states that the two witnesses for a will need to be over the age of 18, of sound mind and able to visually confirm that you’ve signed the will. They can’t be a beneficiary, married to one, or related to you.

It’s not mandatory, but it’s also best to choose people who are:

  • Reliable and responsible
  • Independent from you, and with absolutely no conceivable interest in the will
  • Younger than you, as they’re more likely to be around when your will is put into action

Friends, neighbours and co-workers are all great options for witnessing a will. If you’re elderly, unwell or on medication, it’s a good idea to ask your GP to sign as they can attest to your mental capacity at the time.

 

How to witness a will

Witnessing a will is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you and your witnesses need to do:

  1. Meet up: all three of you (you as the testator and both of your witnesses) need to be present
  2. Explain to the witnesses that you’re about to sign your will
  3. Write down the date on the will
  4. As your witnesses watch, sign your name on the will using your normal signature, and initial all the pages
  5. Ask your witnesses to sign the will and initial all the pages. They should also write their names, addresses and jobs on the will in BLOCK CAPITALS
  6. That’s it!

Remember:

  • Unless you’re adding a codicil to an existing will, the witnesses don’t need to read the will or know what it says
  • All three of you need to stay until everyone has finished signing and initialling the will
  • You all need to sign the same will

Haven’t made your will yet? You can create a legally binding will for FREE in just 10 minutes with Beyond’s will writing tool. Find out more here.

 

FAQs about witnessing a will

Now you know broadly who can witness a will and how to do it, let’s tackle some specific scenarios:

Can an executor witness a will?

Yes, an executor can safely witness a will, so long as they’re not also a beneficiary or married to one. This is the case even if they’re going to charge a fee to act as the executor.

Can a beneficiary witness a will?

No, never. The people who sign your will can’t benefit from its contents in any way. If a beneficiary (or the spouse of a beneficiary) does sign a will, the will remains valid, but the beneficiary won’t be able to claim the gifts left to them.

Can a solicitor witness a will?

Yes, as long as they aren’t a beneficiary or married to one. However, your witnesses don’t need to be legal professionals. You don’t need a solicitor to make or sign your will.

Can witnesses to a will be related? Can a married couple witness a will?

Yes, the two witnesses can be related to each other or married to each other. As long as they aren’t beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary, that’s not a problem.

Can a relative witness a will?

It’s not a good idea, as they’re not independent of you. Even if they’re not a beneficiary, it’s important not to have a relative or spouse sign your will.

Does a will HAVE to be witnessed?

Yes, absolutely. Your will needs to be signed in front of witnesses when it’s first finished, and again if you add any codicils to make changes.

 

Do you have any other questions about who can witness a will? Send us a message using the comment box below.

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