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A simple guide to the role of witnesses in Will writing

When you are writing your Will, one of the most daunting tasks is appointing the witnesses that validate your final wishes. A Will must be signed by the testator (you), in the presence of these two witnesses, who must also sign the paper.

However, there are several laws and regulations that guide the process of witnessing this very important document.

Mander Hadley want to make the process simpler by outlining some of the key things to consider when making your Will.

Why are witnesses necessary?

Witnesses play an integral part in making your Will legally valid. They perform two vital functions that ensure the writing of the Will is lawful:

  1. Confirmation: They confirm that it’s really you who is signing the Will, and you are doing so without any pressure or influence from others.
  2. Mental soundness: Witnesses ensure that you have the mental capacity to understand what you’re doing and therefore cannot make any changes to your Will unknowingly.

Who can be a witness?

There are regulations surrounding who can and can’t act as a witness, these include:

  • Age: Witnesses must be at least 18 years old.
  • Independence: They must not stand to gain from the Will. This means that beneficiaries, or their spouses or civil partners, should not act as witnesses. If a beneficiary signs the Will as a witness, they forfeit their claim to inherit.
  • Mental capacity: Just as one of the jobs of the witness is to ensure the testator’s mental capabilities, the witnesses should understand what they’re signing and be mentally competent to do so.
  • Physical capacity: Blind and partially sighted people cannot witness Wills because they cannot guarantee that the testator put pen to paper.

The Will Signing Process

The best way to sign a Will is with a professional, experienced solicitor, like the ones at Mander Hadley. They will ensure that the process follows the legal requirements to ensure the document is valid.

Firstly, you will sign the Will, written carefully with the help of your solicitor, in the presence of two witnesses, before they sign the Will themselves.

Your solicitor will also ensure that the witnesses’ names, addresses, and occupations are clearly recorded, so they can be contacted if necessary.

A note on virtual Will witnessing

With the rise of technology and the global challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government allowed virtual witnessing of Wills via video conferencing platforms.

This provision enables the testator and witnesses to be in separate locations, provided they can clearly see and hear each other during the signing process.

We still recommended you consult with a solicitor to ensure the process is carried out correctly, as virtual witnessing presents unique challenges and must adhere to specific guidelines.

If you would like to talk to one of our professionals about the possibility of virtual Will witnessing, please get in contact.

Why choose Mander Hadley to help write your Will?

The Will writing process can be complex but by seeking professional help, you can avoid common mistakes.

At Mander Hadley, we aim to make the entire process of Will writing and estate management, as smooth as possible by helping you choose suitable witnesses and avoiding other potential legal pitfalls.

By understanding the role of witnesses and ensuring this aspect is handled with care, you’re taking a vital step in ensuring your final wishes are carried out as intended.

To learn more about choosing a witness for your Will, get in touch.

Amy Hillson

Paralegal – Wills and Powers of Attorney

I started my professional career with Mander Hadley when I joined the firm in March 2021, having completed a Law Degree LLB (Hons) at Birmingham City University.