Being called upon to witness a last will and testament is not merely showing up at a scheduled time to watch someone sign a document. In fact, done properly, being a witness to a last will and testament actually is a far more involved task. You accept significant responsibility when selected to serve as a witness to will. Therefore, after accepting to participate in the execution of someone's last will and testament, you need to familiarise yourself with how to witness the signing.
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Arrive at the time scheduled for the will signing. You are not obliged to read the last will and testament. Your duties focus on the individual signing the will and not the contents of the instrument.
Do not enjoy an alcoholic beverage or any other type of mind-altering substance prior to the will signing. You need to have a clear head.
Answer any questions posed to you by the notary public at the will execution. Not every notary public properly undertakes his duties at a will signing. By law, a notary public should question you about your age (you cannot be a minor), whether you are under the influence of any mind-altering substance and whether you understand what is occurring.
Observe the person executing the will. Make certain that from your perspective the signer appears sober, competent and aware of what he is doing in regard to executing his will.
Listen to the questions posed by the notary public to the will signer. (Again, some notaries fail to take this step although they are required to do so by law.) The questions of notary public to the will signer centre on sobriety, competence and understanding the contents of his will.
Sign your name on a witness line of the last will and testament after the will signer executes the instrument.
Tips and warnings
- If you have any questions about the procedure, ask the notary public or any attorney on hand for a will signing. Oftentimes the attorney who drafted the will is present for the signing.
- The ultimate purpose of witnesses at the signing of a last will and testament is to have individuals available to testify as to the fitness and competence of the person making the will. If someone challenges the will at a future date, the witnesses are called upon to testify in probate court about the state of the will signer at the time he executed the document.
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