Who can witness or attest the signing of a will for it to be valid in law? And what must they do?
The legal formalities to make a valid will require the will-maker to sign their will in the presence of at least two people, acting as formal witnesses to the event. Executing a will in front of witnesses fulfils a protective function.
Witnessing a will – key points:
1. The will-maker must sign the will first in front of two or more witnesses, all present at the same time and in the same place. 2. Witnesses must be mentally competent and be able to see the will-maker make their signature, (the attestation) or other sign as appropriate. 3. At least two witnesses having attested the will then sign their names; in confirmation that the will-maker’s signature, made in their presence was genuine. 4. Anyone likely to inherit under the will, ie a beneficiary, including their spouse/partner should not witness it – although the law has changed in some states and in others exceptions are permitted. Seek legal advice.
A grant of probate is the document issued by the Court of Probate after the examination process. A type of grant of representation, it is an order of the Court certifying that the executor (or personal representative) named in the document is lawfully authorised to administer the estate of the deceased person. More →
To see the will, view it or obtain access to the will of a deceased person
To see the will of a deceased person can be difficult when you are not the executor or administrator. However in some states changes to the legislation on wills and succession has made this easier by making it clear the category of persons who are entitled to see or inspect the will of a deceased person.
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common give different outcomes when an owner dies
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are ways of owning property with others. Each works differently when an owner dies, see graphic below. This impacts who will inherit the deceased owner’s share. These graphics seek to highlight how each tenancy works.
In a joint tenancy, when one owner dies, the surviving one automatically owns the whole property. This happens independently of any will (and probate) because of the right of survivorship attaching to this tenancy type.