Can a Will be witnessed by mutual friends of the terminally ill and their spouse?

My father recently passed away from a terminal illness and the will was witnessed and signed by his spouse’s best friend, a close neighbor, as well as notarized by a Facebook friend of the spouse. The Will was signed and witnessed at home and not in a lawyer’s office or witnessed by any of the lawyer’s staff Would this be considered ethical or a conflict-of-interest? Can it be contested?

Asked on September 9, 2017 under Estate Planning, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In North Carolina, any mentally competent adults can acts a witness, and any qualified notary can notarize. If the witnesses and notary personally benefit from the will, that may provide grounds to attack or challenge the will, if there are other reasons to think that they coerced, tricked, defrauded, etc. the testator (the person making the will) into signing a will benefiting them, but having a personal interest in the will does not automatically disqualify someone from acting as witness or notary: it merely provide evidence that there may be something improper. Being friends of the testator and/or his spouse has no effect on the validity of them witnessing or notarizing the will. And as much as we lawyers like to think we are indispensible, there is no requirement that a will be signed in a lawyer's office or or witnessed by an attorney's staff.


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