Who can witness a will

Who can witness a Will

The Importance of Having a Valid Will

Having a valid will is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. It ensures that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. Your will lets you decide how your assets will be distributed. It also allows you to appoint guardians for your children. But did you know that who witnesses your will is just as important as what’s in it? Choosing the right witnesses is crucial to ensuring your will is valid and legally binding.

What Makes a Will Valid in the UK?

For a will to be valid in the UK, it must meet certain requirements:

  • You must be 18 or over and of sound mind when you make it

  • It must be in writing, either handwritten or typed

  • You must sign it in the presence of two witnesses

  • Your witnesses must also sign the will in your presence

It’s the last two points that we’ll focus on in this article. Let’s dive into who can witness a will and what their role entails or watch the video below!

Choosing the Right Witnesses for Your Will

When making a will in the UK, under UK law, you need two witnesses. But not just anyone can be a witness. There are some important rules to follow.

Age and Mental Capacity

Firstly, your witnesses must be over the age of 18. They must also be of sound mind. This means they must understand what they’re doing and the implications of witnessing a will.


Secondly, your witnesses must be independent. This means they can’t be beneficiaries of your will. They also can’t be the spouses of your beneficiaries.

Why is this important?

If a witness stands to benefit from your will, it could be argued that they influenced you.

This could call into question the validity of your will.

If you put beneficiaries as witnesses they will also lose anything you left them in the Will

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Who Makes a Good Witness?

So, who should you choose as your witnesses? It’s best to choose people who are independent and impartial. This could be friends, colleagues, or even your neighbours. It’s also a good idea to choose witnesses who are likely to outlive you. This is because they may be called upon to confirm the validity of your will after your death.

The Role of a Will Witness

So, what exactly does a will witness do? Their role is to confirm that you signed the will in their presence. They also confirm that you appeared to be of sound mind and under no duress when you signed.

Witnessing the Signing

When you’re ready to sign your will, your witnesses must be present. You must sign the will in their presence. If you can’t sign the will yourself, you can direct someone else to sign it on your behalf in the presence of your witnesses.

Signing as a Witness

After you’ve signed, your witnesses must also sign the will. They must do this in your presence. By signing, they’re confirming that they witnessed you signing the will. It’s important that your witnesses don’t leave the room until all parties have signed. If they do, it could invalidate the will.


Your witnesses don’t need to read your will or know its contents. In fact, it’s best if they don’t. This helps to maintain their impartiality.

Who can witness a Will

Intestacy Rules

If you die without a valid will, your estate will be distributed according to intestacy rules. These are a set of legal rules that determine who inherits what. Under intestacy rules which are outlined in the article What does Intestacy mean, only married or civil partners and close relatives can inherit. This may not align with your wishes. It could also cause disputes among your loved ones.

Challenges to the Will

Even if you have a will, improper witnessing could leave it open to challenges. A disgruntled relative could argue that the will is invalid. This could lead to a lengthy and expensive legal battle. For detailed information on the potential challenges of contesting a will’s validity, it’s important to understand the legal requirements and processes involved

Ensuring Your Will is Properly Witnessed

To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to ensure your will is properly witnessed. Here are some tips:

  • Choose independent witnesses who are over 18 and of sound mind

  • Ensure your witnesses are present when you sign and that they sign in your presence

  • Don’t let your witnesses leave the room until all parties have signed

  • Keep your will in a safe place and let your executors know where it is

You may also want to consider using a professional will writing service. They can ensure that your will is properly drafted and witnessed.

Key Takeaways

Let’s recap the key points about who can witness a will in the UK:

  • You need two witnesses for your will
  • Witnesses must be over 18 and of sound mind
  • Witnesses must be independent – they can’t be beneficiaries or their spouses
  • Witnesses must be present when you sign and must sign in your presence
  • Improper witnessing can invalidate your will or leave it open to challenges
  • Consider using a professional will writing service like xwills.com to ensure your will is properly drafted and witnessed


Special Circumstances and Exceptions

There are a few special circumstances to be aware of when it comes to witnessing a will in the UK:

  1. Blind or illiterate testators: If the testator is blind or illiterate, one of the witnesses must read the will aloud in their presence before signing.

  2. Overseas wills: If a will is signed abroad, it may be subject to different witness requirements depending on the local laws. It’s best to consult with a solicitor to ensure compliance.
  3. Privileged wills (military and naval wills): Special rules apply to wills made by service personnel on active duty. In England and Wales, privileged wills (also known as military or naval wills) are exempt from the usual witnessing requirements. A privileged will can be made orally or in writing, and does not require any witnesses. However, it is only valid if made during active military service and will expire one month after the testator leaves service, unless they lack testamentary capacity at that time.

Battlefield Wills: A Unique Exception

“Battlefield wills” are a special exception to standard witnessing requirements. They are made by soldiers on active duty in conflict zones or anticipating imminent death in combat.

Battlefield wills have even more lenient requirements than regular privileged wills. They can be made orally, in writing, or through a simple gesture indicating intentions. No witnesses are required, and the will is valid from the moment it is made.

Like other privileged wills, a battlefield will expires one month after the soldier leaves active service, unless they are incapacitated. To remain in effect, a new, formally witnessed will should be created as soon as possible

The Bottom Line

Making a will is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. But it’s not enough to simply write down your wishes. You must ensure your will is valid and legally binding. Choosing the right witnesses is a crucial part of this. By following the rules and tips outlined in this article, you can ensure your will is properly witnessed. This will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be respected after you’re gone.


The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute formal legal advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, laws and regulations may change over time. For your specific situation, it is always best to consult with a qualified professional who specialises in wills and estate planning. They can guide you through the process of properly drafting and executing your will, ensuring it is legally valid and tailored to your unique needs. Services like XWills.com offer expert will writing assistance from licensed professionals. Speaking with them directly will give you the personalised attention and formal legal guidance needed to achieve your estate planning goals and protect your legacy.

Andrew Walters - Xwills.com

Researched and Fact Checked by Andrew Walters

Co-Founder, CEO and Senior Will Writer at Xwills.com

Andrew Walters is the co-founder and CEO of Xwills.com, an estate planning firm that combines technology with personalised customer service to elevate the will writing experience. As a full member of the Society of Will Writers, Andrew is committed to upholding the highest professional standards in the field.

Driven by a passion for providing comprehensive support to clients, Andrew pursued formal qualifications in will writing and estate planning. This journey led to the establishment of Xwills, where he and his team fill a gap in the market by offering a tailored alternative to online-only will writing services.

At Xwills, Andrew ensures that each client receives the time and attention needed to understand their specific requirements. He strongly believes that something as important as writing a will should not be rushed or done without expert guidance.

As a member of the Society of Will Writers, Andrew adheres to their code of practise and continues to expand his knowledge through annual training. 

His expertise, combined with Xwills’ commitment to customer service, positions him as a trusted resource for those seeking to protect their legacy and provide for their loved ones.

With his dedication to professionalism and personalised service, Andrew Walters is setting a new standard in the estate planning industry.