A will and testament is an important legal document that allows people to determine how their assets will be distributed after they pass away. The only way to make sure that the will and testament is valid is to have one or more witnesses view the signing of the will. However, not everyone can be a witness. If you're wondering about the possibility of a beneficiary witnessing a will, the following guide provides you with a clear and detailed answer.
Importance of Having Witnesses for a Will
Even though a will is considered to be a legal document, most states have specific requirements that must be met before the document is deemed to be legally binding. For one, the majority of states require an individual who creates a will to first reach legal adult age.
When a person witnesses your will, this ensures that the will is valid if the document is eventually contested by an heir or potential beneficiary. When a challenge occurs, the witness could be called to court to provide testimony that states they watched you sign your will and that you were of sound mind.
Who Can Witness a Will?
In order for someone to be a witness to a will, they are typically required to be:
- Of legal adult age, which is either 18 or 19 depending on the state
- Someone who doesn't have an interest in the will
Potential witnesses to a will include:
- Relatives who aren't in your will
An attorney can also act as your witness if you hire one to assist you in drafting your will.
Can a Beneficiary Witness a Will?
Most states prohibit beneficiaries from being witnesses to a will. Let's say that your will is set to leave assets to your siblings, spouse, and children. None of these individuals can witness the signing of the will since they have a notable interest in the terms of the will and may not provide a fair statement if called to court.
In some cases, indirect beneficiaries of a will can't be used as witnesses either. If your son or daughter is listed as a beneficiary in your will, their spouse can't be a witness since they have an indirect interest in the will. Keep in mind that witnesses aren't required to read through the entire will before signing it. They will, however, be tasked with verifying that the will exists, that you have signed the will in their presence, and that they have signed the will in your presence.
How to Select a Witness for Your Will
When drafting a will, you'll want to have at least one person who can witness the signing of the will. Before selecting witnesses, consider creating a list of candidates as well as a list of individuals who are unable to be witnesses because they are listed in the will. Make sure that two or more people witness the will signing. The witnesses you choose should be:
- Younger than you, which reduces the possibility of the witness passing away
- 18 years old or older
- Free of direct or indirect interest in your will
- Able and willing to testify in regards to the validity of the will
Creating a will doesn't need to be a complicated task. If you know who your beneficiaries are, all that's left is to select the right witnesses for the signing of your will. In this scenario, you can't choose a beneficiary to witness the signing. However, anyone who isn't a beneficiary and is at least 18 years old may be a witness.
This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor.
Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation.