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What are the rules for a witness on a legal document?

Updated July 19, 2017

Some legal documents require a witness in order to take effect. Not all documents require a witness. If the document requires a witness signature, it will say so. It should also have spaces for the number of witnesses required. Generally, a witness can be anyone, as long as they are a neutral party and not involved in the matter the document deals with.

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What is a Witness?

A witness is a person who is present at the signing of a legal document. They sign the document to indicate that they personally saw the signing and that the document is authentic.

What Does it Mean When you Witness a Legal Document?

When you act as a witness, it is important to understand what it means so that you don't witness something you shouldn't. When you witness a document, you are testifying that the document is authentic. A document is authentic if it has been executed correctly. Before you witness a document, you should be certain that the person signing the document is who they say they are and that they understand what they are signing.

Special Witness Requirements

Some documents have special witness requirements. Wills usually have special witness requirements, for example. A will should have two witnesses and neither witness should be named in the will. Some regions have special witness requirements for deeds and mortgages.

Who Can Be a Witness?

In general, any neutral party can be a witness to a document. The witness should be a person who is present at the signing of the document. They should also be an adult. A mentally incapacitated person cannot serve as a witness.

Witness Procedure

If you are called on to serve as a witness, all you have to do is observe the signing of the document. Once you have observed the signing and are satisfied that it is not a forgery, you simply have to place your own signature on the document in the witness signature area. You may be asked to provide contact information so that you can be reached if questions come up about the authenticity or validity of the document.

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About the Author

Katie Glick

Katie Glick has over a decade of experience writing and editing for the education, legal, financial, and entertainment industries. After graduating from UCLA with an English degree, she worked as a copy editor and staff writer at Campus Circle Newspaper. She has also worked as an editor for PRNewswire. Her most recent experience is developing and editing high school textbooks for McGraw-Hill.

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