Instructions when signing a will or codicil

The rules on validly signing a Will or Codicil are very strict and must be followed precisely or else the execution may subsequently be ruled invalid. The following guidelines should therefore be strictly followed. Alternatively, one should execute the Will or Codicil at the office of the lawyer who drafted it to ensure a valid execution.

  1. A Will or Codicil must always be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are over 18 years of age, have legal mental capacity and are not in any way closely related to or married to any person taking a benefit under the terms of the Will. The witnesses should also not be persons appointed an executor or trustee under the Will or be the spouses of such persons.
  2. Whilst the witnesses need not know the content of the Will, they need to understand they are witnessing a Will and they should both not just be in the room but actively observing the person signing the Will when the signature is made.
  3. The signature should be in ink not pencil and the date of the signing should also be added at the same time as the signature. The signature should be a person’s usual signature, say for signing a cheque. The signature should be at the end of the Will in the space indicated.
  4. Once the person signing the Will as their Will has signed (and couples signing similar Wills should always ensure they sign their own Will not their spouse or partners by mistake) then the witnesses should put their full names, usual signature, address and occupation in the space provided at the end of the Will.
  5. If there are any amendments to be made to the Will these should be in pen not pencil and must be initialled not just by the person signing the Will but also by both the witnesses.
  6. Nothing should be attached to the Will by staple or paper clip. No pages should be added or removed from the Will or Codicil being signed and in the rare case where a Will is not bound or at least stapled together it is often prudent for the signing person and the witnesses to sign each page.