A Will is probably one of the most important legal documents that any of us will sign during our life time. It determines, among other things, who is in charge of the administration of your estate and how your estate assets are to be distributed.
A well planned Will creates peace of mind for you and your family. The absence of a Will, or a Will that no longer reflects your current circumstances, can end in uncertainty and dispute. An incomplete Will, one that has not been signed or witnessed correctly, can also make things difficult for your loved ones when it comes time to administer your Will, so it's important to understand the rules around signing and witnessing Wills.
Strict requirements govern the signing and witnessing of wills in Australia, which reflect the importance of a Will.
For a Will to be valid, the Will maker must sign it in the presence two witnesses, who must also sign it in the presence of the Will maker. Ideally, the Will maker and witnesses should sign every page and use the same pen.
In some states, any adult can act as a witness to a Will. This means that a spouse or adult child of the Will maker can act as a witness, even if they are named as beneficiaries in the Will. In other states, a witness cannot also be a beneficiary of the Will (subject to some exceptions). This is commonly referred to as “the interested witness rule”. If you're unsure what rules apply to you based on where you're located, seek legal advice.
If you’ve worked with a lawyer to create your Will, then ideally it would be signed in the presence of your lawyer and another witness so that it is validly executed.
If you are unable to meet face-to-face with your lawyer, some states allow for Wills to be signed and witnessed by video conferencing technology. Another option is that the original Will can be posted or emailed to you so that you can arrange your own witnessing. This is not an ideal scenario and brings with it the risk that the strict signing requirements won’t be complied with.
Incorrectly signed and witnessed Wills are some of the most common reasons that a Will is deemed to be invalid.
If you cannot find a way to have your Will witnessed, you should still proceed and sign it, making it clear that you intend it to be your last Will. You should then ensure it is signed and witnessed correctly as soon as it is possible to do so.
Having a properly signed and witnessed Will not only avoid the potential of someone challenging your Will, but also helps ensure that your estate will be distributed as you intended.
If you haven't started making your Will, our online Wills service only takes about 30 minutes and you can get started from the comfort of your own home. There's never been a more important time to get your estate sorted.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.