Do I need a Witness to sign my documents?
26 July 2018

– Summary

"Does a Witness need to sign this document?", is a common question. GCM Legal discusses when witnesses are necessary and when they are not.

A common question that an attorney is asked is, “do I also need a witness to sign this document?”

Most of the time the answer is, “no”.

While witness signatures can lend credence to your document, in most cases they are not a legal requirement.

Sometimes the confusion comes from the fact that often documents will have a place for witnesses to sign.

Usually, only the parties entering into a written agreement need sign it; although it is worth noting that for an agreement to exist between parties there does not necessarily need to be signature, agreements do not even need to be in writing.

The main reason we reduce agreements to writing and sign them is that it creates legal certainty, so the parties clearly know their rights and duties, but an agreement can be verbal or even implied.  We will deal further with these kinds of agreements in later articles.

However, there are some exceptions to the “no-need-for-a-witness” rule … and if a document does require witnesses by Law, it is very important that the rules regarding Witness signatures are followed carefully.

Exceptions

Certain documents will require witness signatures to be valid.

DOCUMENTS THAT REQUIRE A WITNESS

Last Will and Testament

The requirements for signing a Last Will and Testament are set out in the Wills Act.

A Will must be signed by 2 Witnesses.  The Witnesses must sign in full on every page of the Will.  People who are named as beneficiaries, guardians, executors or trustees (including their spouses) may not sign as witnesses.  The Witnesses must also sign wherever amendments, alterations or deletions are affected to the document.

For more information on Wills see our article 9 things you must do to sign a Will correctly.

Ante-nuptial Contract

An ante-nuptial contract “(“Anc”) is an essential document that should be signed before getting married.

Both spouses must sign the ante-nuptial contract with a notary and in the presence of two competent witnesses.  A competent witness is a person above the age of 14 years who is able and competent to deliver evidence in court.

For more information on Anc’s see our article What is an Ante-nuptial contract and do I need one?

Contractual

Sometimes a contract will specifically state that Witnesses are required for the contract to be valid, in which case Witnesses must sign in accordance with the contract requirements.

It is also possible that an existing contract may envisage future contracts between the parties and may state that future contracts must be witnesses.

If you are going to have people witness your documents, there are certain requirements for witnessing documents.

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A WITNESS

Presence

The  contracting party must sign in the presence of the witnesses

Contact

It must be possible to find the witness later.

There may be other times that witness signatures are required but for the most part, they are mainly there for the propose of evidence, so if a person later says they did not sign to document, the witnesses can be called to confirm that they witnessed the signing.

Get a Last Will and Testament Now

Use iLawyer.co.za to make a Last Will and Testament document today.  iLawyer.co.za is an online automatic Legal Document builder that allows you to make quality legal documents in minutes at low prices.

DISCLAIMER: THERE ARE MORE CONSIDERATIONS THAN WE CAN COVER IN THIS ARTICLE SO ONLY USE THIS INFORMATION AS A GUIDE.   THIS INFORMATION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION WITH AN ATTORNEY; CONTACT US AT 0861 88 88 35helpdesk@gcm-legal.com AND THROUGH THE CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE.

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