For a Will to be valid, it must meet certain formal requirements.
In broad terms, the Will needs to be in writing, signed by the person making it before two witnesses.
So, what happens when a beneficiary witnesses a Will?
To safeguard against risks of influence, a gift made to a witness is void.
A beneficiary does not have to be named personally in the Will for a gift to them to be void. It is enough if there is a general reference, such as “my children”.
There are, however, some limited exceptions which apply that may “preserve” the gift.
- At least two other people have witnessed the execution of the Will who are not beneficiaries;
- All beneficiaries consent to the “interested” witness receiving the gift; or
- The Court is satisfied the Willmaker knew and approved the gift, and it was made freely and voluntarily.
Having your Wills prepared by experienced lawyers will eliminate these and other traps people commonly fall into with their estate planning.