Does your client want to use close relatives as witnesses to ensure privacy or as a matter of convenience? What the law allows, common sense and professional duty oppose. Witnessing is more than an archaic formality. Witnesses attest that the testator is of “sound mind and under no constraint or undue influence,” Minn. Stat. §§524.2-504. In a dispute, the testimony of witnesses as to capacity or undue influence could be discounted if they are also beneficiaries interested in the outcome. Even if there is no challenge to the will, in any falling-out after death complaints from disgruntled family members may make the lives of related witnesses miserable. A witness also named as a fiduciary by the will may face similar credibility problems. The better practice may be to put convenience aside and ask the testator to select friends, remote relatives, your office staff, or other disinterested parties as witnesses.
Theresa K. Readio
Law Office of Theresa K. Radio, Savage