Under English law your Will needs to be witnessed: two people should be present while you sign, and must themselves sign and provide their details. The reason behind this law is that if there are any irregularities with your Will, or it should go missing, they can come forward with details to help prove your Will is valid once you have passed away. They give written evidence by “affidavit,” a sworn statement which is presented to the Probate Registry.
It may seem like a rubber-stamping exercise, but at SWW Trust Corporation we often see Wills which are not witnessed correctly, or whose witnesses are unwilling or unable to come forward. This can stop a Will from being proven valid in Probate.
As such, having poor witnesses to your Will could make your Will useless.
So, what is the best advice for choosing Will witnesses? We would recommend the following.
- They must NEVER be beneficiaries under your Will or married to anyone who is. In fact we recommend that no family member, beneficiary or anyone whatsoever involved in the estate witnesses the Will. The Will legacy may be invalidated if they are a witness.
- Remember that your witness may need to be called forward to give evidence of how and when the Will was attested, after you yourself have passed away. As such we would recommend that they are healthy, younger than you, conscientious, honest and literate.
- A good memory is important. They may be asked for details such as the date, who else was present, what else they were doing that day, any diary or other records to corroborate their information, etc. As such someone who keeps a good written record of their daily business may also prove helpful.
You can seek further advice from a local Member of the Society of Will Writers: please see their website for further details, http://www.willwriters.com/