Who Can Witness a Will

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

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What Is a Witness to a Will?

A witness to a will is an individual who is present when the testator signs their will and who signs it as a witness to attest that the testator signed the will voluntarily and with an understanding of its contents.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a witness is "one who testifies to what he or she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed; specifically, one who gives evidence before a court or jury."

In the case of a will, a witness provides evidence that the testator signed the document in their presence, which is necessary to establish the will's authenticity. The role of a witness in the creation and execution of a valid will is critical.

Witnesses help ensure that the testator has not been coerced or unduly influenced into signing the will, that they are of sound mind and understand its contents, and that the will was executed per the legal requirements.

Without the presence of witnesses, the will may be deemed invalid, and the testator's wishes may not be carried out.

Who Can Witness a Will?

In general, anyone who is competent, over the age of 18, and not a beneficiary of the will can serve as a witness.

The specific legal qualifications for a witness may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Some states require witnesses to be residents of the state where the will is being executed, while others do not.

Additionally, some states require witnesses to be disinterested parties, meaning they have no financial interest in the outcome of the will, while others do not.

Ensuring that the witnesses meet the legal qualifications in the state where the will is being executed is essential. Failure to do so may result in the will’s nullity.

Who Cannot Witness a Will?

Certain individuals are prohibited from serving as witnesses to a will, including the beneficiaries and individuals who have a financial interest in the outcome.

The rationale behind this is that these people may have a conflict of interest that could impact their objectivity and ability to provide an accurate attestation of the will's validity.

Additionally, in some states, individuals who are under the age of 18, have been convicted of a felony, or are not of sound mind are disqualified from serving as witnesses.

Importance of Witnesses in Creating a Valid Will

Witnesses help ensure that the testator signed the will voluntarily with an understanding of its contents, that they were not unduly influenced into signing, and that the will was executed in accordance with the legal requirements.

In addition, witnesses can provide important evidence in case of a contest, a legal proceeding in which someone challenges a will’s validity.

Without witnesses, a will may be more susceptible to a challenge, and the testator's wishes may not be fulfilled. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that witnesses are present when executing a will.

How to Choose a Witness for Your Will

These factors include competence, disinterested party, availability, reliability, and the number of witnesses.


The witness should be a competent individual who is over the age of 18 and of sound mind. It means that they should be able to understand the nature and significance of the document that they are signing.

It is important to choose a witness who can attest to the fact that you signed the will voluntarily and with a clear understanding of its contents.

Personal Interest

A witness should be disinterested in the outcome of your will. For instance, a beneficiary of your estate should not be chosen as a witness since they may have a conflict of interest.

Similarly, family members may be disqualified as witnesses in some states. It is important to choose an impartial witness to ensure the document’s validity.


The witness should be present to sign the will during its execution. It is a good idea to discuss the matter with the potential witness beforehand to ensure they are willing and able to serve.

The will may be nullified if the witness cannot attend the document’s signing.


You should be able to count on your witness. They should be someone who is likely to be available in case of a will contest or other legal proceedings. You may want to consider choosing a witness who is dependable, responsible, and has a good reputation.

It will ensure that they can provide a credible account of the signing of your will if the need arises.

Number of Witnesses

It is recommended that you choose at least two witnesses to ensure that there is sufficient evidence of the will's validity. In some states, having more than two witnesses may be required.

By selecting the right number of witnesses for your will, you can help ensure that your wishes are carried out, and your estate is distributed according to your preferences.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Witness to Your Will

Final Thoughts

A witness to a will is crucial in ensuring the document's validity. They attest to the testator's voluntary and knowing signature, help ensure the testator was of sound mind when signing the document, and provide evidence in case of a will contest.

Generally, qualifications to be a witness to a will include age and relationship to the testator. A witness must at least be 18 years old. Family members and beneficiaries are not allowed to be witnesses.

Other qualifications vary depending on the specific state. Choosing witnesses who meet your state's legal qualifications is essential.

Aside from legal requirements, you must consider a potential witness’ competence, availability, reliability, and personal interest. It is suggested that you select at least two witnesses.

Consult a financial advisor or estate planning lawyer for further guidance. By selecting the right witnesses, you can help ensure that your will is carried out and that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.

Who Can Witness a Will? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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