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Why does a will need witnesses?

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2019 | Estate Planning

Estate planning experts in Saint Charles continually stress the importance of your preparing a will. Yet equally as important as writing a will is ensuring that you have witnesses that can attest to it. The root cause of almost all will contest is objections to the validity of a will. Having witnesses in place proves to any interested parties to your estate that the provisions of your will are indeed valid. Without witnesses, you have what is known as a “holographic will,” whose validity Missouri law does not recognize. 

The creation and signing of your will need not be a spectacular production. In fact, your chosen witnesses may not technically need to be present when you sign it. You simply need to have two or more of them attest to the fact that the will reflects your desires as to the administration of your estate. Those witnesses must then add their signatures to the document. 

The need to have at least two witnesses arises from the potential of their being will contest. If a will only required one witness to be valid, then some might argue that the witness exercised undue influence on you to draft your will in a manner that directly benefitted them. Having multiple witnesses undermines such a claim. 

Who can serve as witnesses to your will? According to Section 474.330 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes, any competent person can be a witness. If a witness is an interested party to your estate, however, his signature must be accompanied by at least two other uninterested parties. Otherwise, that witness risks forfeiting their share of the estate.