Signing a will - getting it right

For your will to be valid, it is important that it is signed in a particular way:

  • your will must be in writing and signed by you;
  • your signature must be made in the presence of two witnesses; and
  • those two witnesses must sign your will in your presence.

There is one exception to this. If you have already signed your will in the absence of witnesses, you can confirm to them (when they are both or all present) that it is your signature. And the witnesses can then sign the will. This is known as acknowledging your signature. However, the best practice is to sign the will in the presence of the witnesses.

There is no rule as to where on your will you should sign. However, signing at the end of your will is the most obvious place, and doing so indicates you have read and taken into consideration the entire document.

It's also a good idea to ask your witnesses to sign your will below your signature, as this indicates they signed your will after you. Each witness should state their full name, address and occupation under their signature.

Signing your will incorrectly increases the likelihood of its validity being challenged or called into question after you die. If you notice any mistakes in relation to the way in which you have signed your will, the easiest way to resolve any such issues would be to produce a new copy of your will and sign it again in the correct way.

Blind or illiterate testators

If you are blind or unable to read, your will is only valid if it is clear that you knew and understood the contents of your will before you sign it. The easiest way of showing this is to use a special clause at the bottom of the will (called an attestation clause), which states that the will has been read to you, and that you understood it before you signed it. You may only be able to make a mark, instead of a signature, and this is acceptable as long as the will has been read over to you and you understand its contents.

The person reading the will to you does not have to be one of the witnesses. But it is advisable for the will to be read to you in the presence of the witnesses, so that they know for certain that you understand its contents. It is not absolutely necessary to record who read the will to you in order to obtain a grant of probate, but it is a good idea so that the person can give evidence if needed.

If you have amended your will using a codicil

A codicil is a document that amends an existing will. It allows you to change your will without making an entirely new one, and should be signed in exactly the same way as you have signed your will (although the two witnesses do not have to be the same people who witnessed your will). A codicil does not replace the existing will. For further information, see our page What is a codicil?

Attestation

You might want to consider including an attestation clause at the end of your will. This is a clause confirming that you have signed your will in the presence of two or more witnesses. Including an attestation clause therefore reinforces the validity of your will, and may help address any challenges to its validity.

Dating your will

You should put the date you sign the will on the face of the document. This is something you must do if you would like to appoint guardians for your children in your will. For further guidance on appointing guardians in your will, see our pages What is a guardian? and Appointing a guardian in a will.

Fraudulent wills

If a will is not correctly signed and witnessed, it may be regarded as being fraudulent. For example:

  • the signature on what is claimed to be your will is not actually yours, but that of someone else; or
  • you may have been tricked into signing a document without knowing that it was a will.

Proving that a will is fraudulent, and therefore invalid, can be difficult. If a will is signed, dated, and witnessed, it is presumed to have been correctly executed. Obtaining sufficient evidence to the contrary can be challenging, and if this is not found the will is likely to be regarded as being valid.

It is therefore all the more important to ensure not only that your will accurately reflects your wishes, but that it is also correctly signed and executed. In addition, it is a good idea to make sure your will is stored securely. For more information on storing your will, see our page Will storage.