A beneficiary should not witness a will under Oklahoma law, because any devise to the witness under the will is rendered void.
What Are the Witness Requirements For an Oklahoma Will?
An Oklahoma will requires the signatures of two witnesses who witness the testator sign the will or acknowledge the testator’s signature on the will.
To review the witness requirements for an Oklahoma will, read How Do You Make a Valid Will In Oklahoma?
Is It Ok For a Beneficiary To Witness a Will In Oklahoma?
No. Oklahoma law addresses what happens if a beneficiary under the will serves as a witness to the will. Section 84-143 Oklahoma Statutes states:
All beneficial devises, legacies or gifts whatever, made or given in any will to a subscribing witness thereto, are void unless there are two other competent subscribing witnesses to the same; but a mere charge on the estate of the testator for the payment of debts does not prevent his creditors from being competent witnesses to the will.
This means that if a beneficiary under your Oklahoma will serves as one of the required witnesses, any devise to that beneficiary is void. For example, if you leave your friend Alan $100,000 under your will, and your friend Bob nothing, and Alan and Bob serve as your only witnesses to the will, Alan will not receive the $100,000 devised to him, because his gift will be void. The will remains valid (if otherwise executed properly), but your testamentary wishes will not be carried out because Alan will not receive his gift.
The only time that a beneficiary serving as a witness will not invalidate the gift to that beneficiary under the will is if there are two other competent subscribing witnesses to the will. This means that a will must have more than the required two witnesses subscribing to the will – it must have two witnesses in addition to the beneficiary witness in order to preserve the gift to the beneficiary witness.
Why Is a Devise To a Beneficiary Witness Rendered Void?
A devise to a beneficiary witness under an Oklahoma will is void under Oklahoma law to diminish the opportunity for undue influence and to protect a vulnerable testator. The more disinterested witnesses present at a will signing, the greater chance that the will contains the true last wishes of a testator, and not the wishes of the beneficiary witness who is sitting at the table with the testator while the will is being signed. Of course, undue influence and other bases to contest an Oklahoma will can still be present with disinterested witnesses. The use of a beneficiary to witness an Oklahoma will raises enough of a concern to automatically make the devise to that beneficiary void.
The Takeaway: Use disinterested witnesses for your will signing to make sure that your Oklahoma will remains valid in its entirety. Working with an Oklahoma probate lawyer is one of the best ways to make sure that your will complies with all of the requirements for a valid will execution, including the signature of two disinterested witnesses.