Q: Who should I select as my witnesses?
A: In order to make your estate plan documents legally effective, Illinois law requires that the signing of the documents be witnessed by two “disinterested individuals.” These people must be over the age of 18, and not a recipient of any gifts or assets in the documents. It is best if the witnesses are individuals that know you who could attest in court to your mental well-being at the time of the signing of the documents if that were to ever come into question.
The following individuals should NOT be chosen as a witness for your estate planning documents:
• Anyone under the age of 18.
• Anyone who may profit or benefit from your estate plan and their relatives.
• Anyone designated in your estate plan, for example as executor, trustee, Power of Attorney Agent.
• Your spouse.
• Any family members, or spouses of family members.
• Anyone who is directly involved in your direct care as a caretaker or medical professional.
• Someone who is blind.
• Someone who no longer possesses sound mental capacity.
• The person who is notarizing your documents.
Unless a member of one of the above categories, witnesses can include friends, neighbors and co-workers. In addition, your witnesses can be strangers and individuals who are not acquaintances of yours. Your witnesses will not see or know of the contents of your estate plan documents and will only know the type of document that they are witnessing.