Unless correctly ‘attested’ (signed, with witnesses), a Will is meaningless. Having
your Will writer supervise the process reduces the chances of problems. If you witness
a Will, it means you cannot benefit from the Will.
Signing a Will
There is a lot of confusion around something as basic as the attestation process
i.e. the signing of a Will. These notes should help to dispel a few myths and help
ensure your Will is valid.
A Will that is not signed is useless. It has absolutely no significance and even
if the person really did mean to sign it a court will disregard an unsigned document.
A Will needs to be signed, in the presence of 2 witnesses who then each sign. If
any of the signatures are made with any of the 3 out of the room then the Will is
probably not valid.
Normally the witnesses do not know the content of the Will, unless the testator chooses
to tell them.
If someone cannot read (for whatever reason, including being blind) the Will can
be read to them before it is then signed. If someone cannot physically sign they
can direct someone to sign on their behalf. In both of these situations special wording
will be required on the Will to record what happened and to ensure validity.
If there is any realistic possibility of the Will being challenged in the future,
it is particularly important to have witnesses who are likely to still be around
in the future and who could provide credible testimony if needed.
A ‘beneficiary‘ is someone who will (or might) benefit from a Will. If a beneficiary
(or their current spouse/civil partner) acts as witness then the Will is valid, but
they lose their benefit. So if you witness a Will, you can be sure you will get nothing
from it (this is not to be confused with the role of Executor- a beneficiary CAN
also act as Executor)
A common mistake occurs when a couple make Wills at the same time. It is all too
easy to accidentally sign each other’s Will (yes, it DOES happen).
For these and other reasons it is good practice for the signing of your Will to be
supervised by your Will writer. If you choose to do it on your own, you should still
have it checked afterwards. Once it is signed the Will must be kept safe, somewhere
you can be sure it will be found later. NEVER keep it at home. - it can go missing
in even the most organised of households.