An attestation clause assures that a witness saw a document be signed by the correct parties. It typically appears at the end of a will, though it also shows up in deeds and other legal documents that require a witness to watch parties sign the papers. This clause is not always required but, when there is one and it is left unsigned, the document may appear unfinished and unofficial. The result is that legal difficulties may occur, because a judge may request an affidavit to get additional proof of the document's validity.
Such a clause is typically required on any legal document that requests a witness to be present when it is signed. In most cases, not just anyone can validate that the signing took place, because the witness needs to be chosen by the party as an attesting witness. Therefore, people who are merely in the room when a document is signed are not usually considered attesting witnesses. Most documents require two or more attesting witnesses to be present to watch the proper party sign the document, so the attestation clause makes it clear that this requirement has been met.
If a will or other document lacks an attestation clause or contains a clause that does not appear valid, a judge can order an affidavit to prove the paper was signed by the appropriate party. The affidavit may be from an attesting witness, though it can be from anyone who can show evidence that the signature is valid. If this cannot be proved when it comes to a will, then it cannot go to probate. Therefore, while an attestation clause is not always required by law, it is usually recommended to avoid hindering legal proceedings.
Statutory law requires that the attestation clause be placed just under the signature of the party responsible for initiating the document. The clause typically states that the person who initiated and signed the document did so voluntarily and in the presence of at least two witnesses. It also asserts that the originator of the document was of sound mind when it was made, as well as at least 18 years old; a parent or guardian typically has to sign for minors. Of course, another element of the attestation clause is that the attesting witnesses signing the document are doing so to acknowledge that they saw the document's originator sign it, because this is the very purpose of the clause.