You have finally decided to write your will. You have decided on who should benefit from your estate in the event of your death. You have listed all of the gifts you want to make to loved ones. You have decided who should be guardians of the children in the event of the unthinkable and you have decided where Baxter the dog should go if you outlive him. You are organised, you have gone to the solicitors to have your will drafted. What actually makes your instructions on a piece of paper a legally binding document?
As you can see, the witnessing of a will plays a huge part in making your will a legally binding document. But, who do you choose to make your will valid? The role of a witness is to confirm that the will has been signed by the person making it. By signing the will as a witness, you are verifying that you have watched the testator sign or acknowledge their signature. It is as simple as that. Although not a legal requirement, dating your will is advisable.
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If you have made more than one will, a clearly dated will makes it clear which is your most recent will. Essentially, anyone can witness your will, as long as they are of sound mind, not blind and over Witnesses may have to provide sworn statements about the circumstances in which the will was signed. There could be queries regarding the signature, claims regarding the mental capacity of the person making the will or allegations regarding any undue influence being placed on the testator before the will was signed.
Here are some factors to consider before choosing the ideal witnesses to your will.
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With elderly people witnessing your will, there is a higher probability that they may die before you and would be unable to answer any questions about the will being signed. Of course, the elderly can be witnesses to wills; this is more of a practical factor to consider. If any questions were raised regarding the signing of your will, it helps to have witnesses would who are easily traced to minimise delays in the administration of your estate.
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Again, people who do not live close to you can be witnesses to wills; this again is just a practical factor to consider. It is advisable that you choose independent people to witness the will; independent from you family members witnessing the will could cause problems and potential delay in the administration of your estate ; and independent to the contents of the will. Friends, neighbours and work colleagues can be ideal witnesses. It is important to note that your witnesses can be married to each other.
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If you have a close relationship with your bank, you could ask the members of staff to be witnesses to your will. Lawyers can also witness your will. A testator who cannot write because of illiteracy or physical disability can place a mark normally a cross where she or he would normally sign and the witnesses must state in the that the mark was made by the testator.
The will of a testator who does not understand the English language should be read to the testator in her or his language by one of the witnesses in the presence of the other witness and the witnesses must state in the that the testator understood and approved of it. Wills should not be executed in duplicate.
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There should only be one original, signed copy of the will. Photocopies may be made. It is a good idea to note on the photocopies where the original is kept.
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No writing or alteration should be made on a will after it is signed. No pins or paper clips should be attached to a will.
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