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Do you always need witnesses when signing a will in Virginia?

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Making an estate plan is often an involved process. You have to make a list of essentially all of your financial assets and your debts to decide how to structure your legacy. You have to analyze your relationships and consider issues like taxes.

All of that careful work will result in the creation of documents, likely including your last will. The point of leaving behind a will is to provide explicit instructions for the executor of your estate and your other loved ones regarding the distribution of your property after you die.

Ensuring that your estate planning documents are valid is crucial, as they could otherwise crumble in the face of challenges brought by family members. Witnesses for legal documents can help them stand up to scrutiny in court. Do you have to have two witnesses present when you sign your will in Virginia?

Yes, Virginia law typically requires witnesses

There are people, like your closest family members, who could have a financial interest in fraudulently altering your estate plan. The state’s requirement for witnesses helps protect testators from this kind of misconduct.

When someone signs their will, they usually need to have two witnesses who are over the age of 18 and who are legally competent in the eyes of the courts. Those witnesses will have to watch the testator sign and will then need to sign the documents themselves.

The only situation in which a Virginia testator does not need two witnesses for the signing of their will is when they hand-write the entire document so that their family members or the courts can validate the authenticity of the document.

The best witnesses won’t have much to gain from your estate

Selecting your primary beneficiaries or closest family members as the witnesses for your estate documents could undermine the protection witnesses provide tested horse. Choosing people who don’t benefit from your estate to serve as witnesses is usually a good decision because they will have no incentive to misrepresent your wishes or your mental state during signing in the future.

Learning more about the laws that affect estate planning in Virginia can help you create a valid and enforceable will.