For your will to be valid, it needs to be signed. Having a witness there to be able to attest to the circumstances of the signing process helps support the document’s validity. A witness is important especially if someone alleges that your will is invalid in the future.
A witness who is also a beneficiary of the estate in question is referred to as an interested witness and this is explained under California Probate Code Section 6112. California law states that any person who is generally competent to serve in the role of a witness can act as a witness to a will. A will or any provision of it is not invalid because the will has been signed by an interested witness.
In some cases, it may be possible to leverage an existing beneficiary to serve as a witness. Just because a beneficiary to a California will can witness it, doesn’t mean that they should. A presumption might exist in these cases that the bequest to a beneficiary witness is invalid due to undue influence, fraud, or duress.
While this might not necessarily be your intention, it can raise unnecessary conflicts in the management of your estate in the future. If possible, it’s best to use someone else in the role of witness so that you can show a strong case that you made your own decisions around creating the will and the provisions within it. Even if a will contest is unsuccessful in the future, it can delay the administration of your estate and slow things down unnecessarily.
In these cases, schedule a consultation with a Pasadena estate planning lawyer so that you have a clear understanding of the process involved in outlining each aspect of your will and the best ways to guard against things such as will contests.