Our Wills Solicitors in Preston Discuss Who Can Witness A Will
Posted on 5th May 2020
With online Wills becoming more sought-after due to lockdown restrictions imposed by the Government in relation to COVID-19, it’s important for our clients to know who can and cannot act as witness to the signature of their Wills.
First of all, we’ve discussed in our Wills Solicitors in Preston’s previous blog how a Will should be witnessed correctly.
If you want a quick summary, as to who can sign a Will to make it valid, then basically two independent people, over the age of 18, must act as witnesses when you sign your final Will. They must be present when you sign (at the moment, over 2m away is absolutely fine, providing that they can actually see you sign the final document), and they must be able to sign the final document, too, to confirm they watched you sign.
Who Cannot Witness My Will?
The reason behind needing two independent witnesses is so that these people can attest to the circumstances surrounding signature, if there ever comes a time when it’s called into question after you’ve died. And this situation does happen, more than you’d think. None of MG Legal’s solicitors have has any of our clients’ Wills queried, but there’s nothing saying that this won’t happen in the future.
That’s why it’s vital that the witnesses are appropriate, and could potentially give credible evidence, if – in the unfortunate circumstances - it was ever required.
Whilst the law itself is fairly relaxed about who can and cannot witness a Will, which you can read more about on gov.uk, here, it’s not necessarily the issue of making the Will invalid that is the issue that people who draft their own Will seem to face. Generally, it’s that the witnesses aren’t perhaps independent and/or credible enough to convince the Court that the Will was signed correctly.
To summarise gov.uk, the witnesses must be over 18, they must be in your presence, and they must not be a beneficiary of any gift (whether a personal item or monetary) in your Will.
Our Wills Solicitors in Preston would always advise that the following people never act as witnesses for your Will:
- Your spouse, civil partner or any unmarried partner
- Any family member (whether a blood relation, a relative by marriage or adopted/step family member)
- Any beneficiaries of your Will (i.e. anybody who is due to receive a gift from your Estate, no matter how big or small said gift would be)
- The spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of any beneficiaries of your Will
- Anyone who is not legally an adult (i.e. under 18 years old)
- Anyone who is blind, partially sighted, or is unable to physically watch you sign the final document
- Anyone who lacks mental capacity sufficient to understand what they are witnessing.
Whilst some of the above witnessing your Will would not make it invalid, if there was ever any question about how you signed your Will and when, it could mean that the Court would rule in favour of invalidating the Will. If your witness or their spouse is named as a beneficiary, it wouldn’t invalidate your Will, however it would usually mean that any gift to the named individual fails. Therefore, the Will would be treated as though the gift wasn’t included.
Based on the fact that you had thought to include the gift in the first place, we would assume that would not be what you wanted!
For example, if our Hope Jordan left a gift to our Lorraine Gill of her favourite law text books (being a book worm, our Hope Jordan really does treasure the 800-page books she has to trawl through to finish her degree!), and then Lorraine acted as Hope’s witness, the gift of these books would fail, and Lorraine would be left without these treasured keep-sakes.
Another very important reason for the witnesses to be independent is that then there can be no argument (or, much less case for an argument) that your witnesses put you under any pressure to sign the Will, to make sure you left them a gift.
For practical reasons, anyone who may struggle to physically watch you sign your final Will is included on the list of Witnesses not to use, as they would be unable, or may find it difficult, if called upon, to say that they actually saw you sign the final document.
Who Can Witness My Will?
Anyone who is over the age of 18, independent (i.e. not named in your Will) and has capacity (and doesn’t fall into one of the other categories above) can witness you signing your final Will.
When our Wills Solicitors in Preston are drafting Wills, we will usually provide two witnesses who can watch you sign your final Will.
However, if you are finding your own witnesses, a professional could be useful, especially if you are concerned that there could be any doubt as to your capacity in the future. For example, a GP. Alternatively, you could ask your neighbours, colleagues, or friends. Again, and we can’t stress this enough, providing that they do not fall into any of the above categories, and they are over 18 with full mental capacity, there should be no issues with a person acting as one of your witnesses.
How Do I Make A Will?
How much does it cost to make a Will?
Our fixed-fee for a single Will is just £110.00 plus VAT, or £195.00 plus VAT for mirror Wills.
You can read about our fixed-fees offered, here.
If you work for the NHS, Civil Service or you are a shop worker, as a BIG thank you, we’re offering 50% off all fixed-fees; find out more on our COVID Discount page, here.
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