Who can witness a will in the UK?

In Drafting a will

Choosing a witness is an important step for making a valid will. We’ll guide you through what you need to know about will witnesses. Explore why you need one, how many you need, and who can witness a will.

Does a will have to be witnessed? 

You might ask, ‘Is a will valid if not witnessed?’ and the answer is: absolutely not.

Witnesses are essential to the will-writing process, ensuring that the will is genuine, not made ‘under duress’, and they help stop fraud.

Witnesses may also be called to give evidence if a will is improperly executed or contested. In order to be valid, a will must be:
  • Made voluntarily by someone of sound mind who’s over 18
  • Made in writing
  • Signed by the person making the will in front of two witnesses
  • Signed by two witnesses in the presence of the person making the will
Your witnesses don’t need to know what’s in the will, or even read it. So long as you’re happy with the contents of the will, that should be enough.

Any updates to your will must be witnessed, too.
 

How many witnesses do you need to sign a will? 


You’ll need two witnesses to sign your will. This is the final step in the will-writing process.

First, the witnesses will watch you voluntarily sign your will.

Then, they’ll need to sign it themselves (with you witnessing the witnesses), making your will legally valid.

Until January 31st 2022, government legislation allows witnesses to sign ‘virtually’ over a video-call. But it’s preferable to witness a will in person wherever possible.
 

Can anyone be a witness to a will? 


Almost anyone over the age of 18 can be a witness for your will – but that doesn’t mean it’s always advisable.

That’s because, once they become a witness, they’re no longer allowed to benefit from your will. The beneficiary’s spouse or civil partner will also be ineligible to anything, too.

It’s best to choose a witness to your will who is:
  • Independent
  • Not a beneficiary
  • Competent
  • Mentally capable
  • Trustworthy
 

Can a beneficiary witness a will?


Any beneficiary can become a witness to your will. But, as the law stands, the moment they sign, they will no longer be a beneficiary, no matter what your will says.

This can lead to legal wrangling and a re-jigging of the will to give those assets and money to another beneficiary.  As such, it’s easiest to make sure your witness is someone who will not benefit from your will.
 

Can a spouse or civil partner witness a will? 


It’s usually not a good idea to use your spouse or civil partner as a witness to your will. Most wills, and the law, will favour your partner and what benefits them most – even if you pass away without writing a will.

If you and your partner have made joint wills, it’s even less of a good idea. It would mean your spouse losing a claim on your estate (and rendering a joint will redundant, in the process).
 

Can a relative be a witness to a will?


Relatives can be used as witnesses, so long as they (or their partner) don’t benefit. If their partner was a beneficiary, it can cause major problems after your death. They won’t be able to legally receive the gifts you’ve willed to them, it could lead to unnecessary legal costs, contesting a will or, in a worst-case scenario, tear a family apart.

If you choose a relative who doesn’t gain from your will, make sure you completely trust their judgement and impartiality.
 

Can an executor witness a will?


Your executor can be a witness. An executor of a will is the person who takes control of your estate once you die and ensures your final wishes are carried out in accordance with your will.

It’s a good idea to have two executors, in case one passes away. You can have up to four executors of a will.
 

Can a doctor witness the will? 


Using your doctor as a witness is a great idea. It’s an especially wise decision if you’re elderly or in ill health, whether physical or mental.

With a doctor as your witness, you’re also guarded against later accusations that you weren’t of sound mind when writing your will.
 

Can a stranger witness my will? 


Technically, a stranger over the age of 18 can be your witness, so long as they’re present when you sign.

However, bear in mind that a witness may be called upon to give evidence if your will is poorly executed. In other words, don’t let them stay a stranger – their services may be required after you pass away for the good of your beneficiaries.
 

Can a solicitor witness a will?


A solicitor is a permissible witness. In many circumstances, they can also offer a second witness – often a fellow staff member. So, it’s certainly easier, and you can be assured of their independence and impartiality.

But be aware that your solicitor will usually charge for this service. This is in addition to any fees for drawing up the will.

Accountants and other professionals are also a good choice.
 

How to get a will witnessed


You should ask your witnesses in advance if they’re happy to do so.

After you’ve considered what should be included in your will, and drafted a copy either by yourself, or through using a solicitor or professional will-writer, gather with your witnesses. In many cases, this will be with your solicitor (or via video link).

Tell those present that you’re about to sign your will. Then, as your witnesses watch, sign in your normal signature and initial every page.

You don’t have to date your will – it won’t invalidate it – but it’s worth doing so anyway.

Next, your witnesses need to sign, while you watch. They should also print their name and include their address and job title.

If you’re preparing to draft a will, make it worry-free by using our quick form to find a solicitor or professional will-writer at the best price.
 
  

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