Importance of having a witness when signing real estate documents
Legal documents don’t automatically become usable as soon as you print or download them—they still need to be executed properly. You probably already know that legal documents need to be signed, but another common requirement is to have your signature witnessed by a third-party.
What is a Witness in a Legal Document?
In a legal contract, a witness is someone who watches the document be signed by the person they are being a witness for and who verifies its authenticity by singing their own name on the document as well.
Legally, a witness must meet the requirements set out by the federal government, but most often, witnesses must be:
- Of the age of majority
- Able to confirm the identity of the person who is signing the document
- Of sound mind (has the mental capacity to make decisions without assistance)
- A neutral third-party
It’s best if your witness is not involved in the contract you are signing and that they don’t receive any benefits from the agreement that is detailed in the contract.
Does My Contract Have to be Witnessed?
Most legal documents don’t have to be witnessed, but that isn’t to say they shouldn’t be.
Having a witness helps to reinforce the validity and authenticity of your document by adding another layer of security should your contract ever be questioned in court.
For example, when a document is signed by a neutral, third-party witness, it helps to prove that the document was signed willingly and not through undue influence, coercion, or duress.
What if I Don’t Have a Witness for my Contract?
As mentioned, most contracts don’t explicitly require that you have a witness. But for documents that do such as real estate documents, it’s important that you complete this step or you may be unable to use your document as intended.
If you don’t have someone who can act as a witness for you, such as a friend or acquaintance, you can consider having a lawyer act as your witness instead.
The Benefits of Witnesses
Though witnesses aren’t always a requirement for executing a legal document, they can help solidify and authenticate your contract by providing proof that the signatures are legitimate and consensual.
When they are required, they’re an important part of ensuring that your legal document is legally sound when it needs to be, keeping you from having to face the repercussions of having an invalid contract.