How to Witness a Last Will & Testament

by Cindy Hill
    Witnesses ensure that a will has not been executed under threat or pressure.

    Witnesses ensure that a will has not been executed under threat or pressure.

    Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Being asked to witness the will of a friend, family member or coworker can create unnecessary anxiety. Although a will is an important legal document which must be witnessed to be valid, the duties and responsibilities of witnesses are simple and straightforward. It is extremely rare for witnesses to a will to ever be called upon for any further obligations related to their signatures. As you consider how to witness a last will and testament, think about taking advantage of the will-signing event to complete your own will at the same time.

    Step 1

    Advise the testator if you are under 18, as this disqualifies you from witnessing a will. Ask if you are a beneficiary under the will, as in most cases beneficiaries should also not witness a will signing, advises the Washington State Bar Association.

    Step 2

    Check to determine that there are at least two witnesses in the room in addition to the testator, or at least three witnesses in the state of Vermont, advises FindLaw.

    Step 3

    Sit where you can physically observe the testator sign the will. Remain in the room while all necessary witnesses sign the will.

    Step 4

    Sign the will where indicated by a witness signature line. Use a non-erasable ball point pen, or a fountain pen and ink,. You may also inscribe a date adjacent to your signature or on a separate designated date line. If requested, print your name in addition to your signature.

    Things Needed

    • Non-erasable ball point pen, or fountain pen with ink

    Tips & Warnings

    • If requested, sign a self-proving affidavit before a notary public at the will signing. This affidavit ensures that you will not have to testify confirming your signature in probate court, according to FindLaw.
    • Converse with the testator before signing, especially if she is not well known to you. You might ask if this last will and testament represents her true intention, if she was threatened or pressured, or if she has been ill or confused in preparing the will.
    • Do not ask to read the contents of the will, as you are not entitled to this information.
    • Don't sign as a witness to a last will and testament if you have reason to believe that the testator is not of sound mind at the time the will is executed, including if the testator is confused, ill, or appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Do not witness a will if you are the attorney who prepared it, or the named executor.

    About the Author

    A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images