A Will can still be valid even though the witnesses did not sign

In the recent case decision of Payne and Another v Payne [2018], the Court of Appeal held that a Will was validly executed, even though the two witnesses had not signed the Will when attesting the Testator’s signature.

It is a common belief that for a Will to be valid, two witnesses must see the Testator sign the Will, and then they must sign their names, together with providing details of their name, address and occupation.

The decision in Payne has changed this conception and it may be as a result of the Law Commission’s report to reform the law relating to Wills, so as to remove some of the archaic wording, such as “attesting” a Will. 

The Court decided that the word “signed” should be interpreted as having the same meaning as “subscribe”, so that the provision merely required the witnesses to write their names with the intention that the act of writing should operate as an attestation to the Will. 

In other words, as a result of the witnesses providing their personal details, it indicated that they intended to witness the Testator’s signature and therefore their signatures were not necessary to make the Will valid.

However we would still recommend, that to avoid any doubt about the validity of a Will, the witnesses should still sign their names.

If you have any queries about the validity of a Will, or any other probate query, please contact our specialist Contentious Probate Team at either Southend or Benfleet Office on 01702 338338 or Billericay Office on 01277 500123.