The law states that a Will, and therefore the contents within it, is only valid if it has been correctly signed and witnessed. Although many other elements of a Will can give rise to the question of validity, most of the time, it falls back on whether the signatures, and how they were signed, are legally binding.
Although technology has made e-signatures and electronic pen pads an increasingly common sight, the execution of a Will remains relatively old fashioned - with the legal guidance on executing the document dating back to 1837! The law still requires a person to put ink to paper, and ensuring that when you do so, two completely independent and impartial people watch you do so.
As much as it can be tempting to simply take your newly drafted Will into work one day, and have one person witness it whilst you’re making a cup of tea, and then another whilst you head off for lunch, it is important to stress that by doing so, your witnesses would not have been together when you actually signed the document. Therefore, your Will would be considered invalid, meaning that your wishes and gifts fail. Not only would this be disappointing in the sense that your final wishes could not be carried out, it could in fact cause some tension between relations, as a person may therefore inherit on intestacy more than you had ever intended them to do.
The case of Watts v Watts is a prime example of when not witnessing a person signing their own Will can create a complete failure of the document. Although this case saw a son forge his own mothers’ signature and then give it to another to witness, it shows that both the Courts and Probate Registry are very keen on ensuring that anything submitted to them after death is fair and true.
Not only is having a solicitor professionally draft your Will going to save the angst of ensuring that your wishes shall be binding, but by then having it signed and witnessed within that firm might further ensure that you can breathe easy and know that the question of its validity is unlikely to ever arise.