What is 'Attestation'

The act of witnessing the signing of a document and then also signing it to verify that it was properly signed by those bound by its contents.

BREAKING DOWN 'Attestation'

Broadly speaking, an attestation is a third party recognition of a documented agreement's validity.  Ideally, the person or party acting as the witness of the signing has no professional or personal association with either of the signatories, and in some states this criterion is enforced by state probate law.  Attestations are particularly associated with agreements of great personal and financial significance, especially legal documents involving wills or power of attorney.  Attestations are also used when a witness is filing a police report.  The witness signs to confirm that their statement is valid, and another person signs as attestation that the first signature was authentic.

Attestations are most commonly associated with wills and trusts.  In this situation, an attestation generally verifies

  • That the testator (the person signing the will) is of sound mind
  • That the testator executed the will voluntarily as an expression of his or her intentions
  • That the testator signed the will and that the party performing the attestation witnessed the signing 

The form and application of attestation clauses to legal documents is prescribed by state probate law in the United States.  While attestation clauses may vary somewhat from state to state, the essential function and intent of the attestation is generally consistent.  In 1946, the American Bar Association published a Model Probate Code which was intended to act as a legal standard.  Most state probate codes are closely based on the 1946 code, with occasional minor adjustments.  For the most part, the biggest variations in attestation clauses from state to state relate to who can perform a third party attestation.

The process of attestation arises from the venerable human tradition of seeking independent verification of recorded events.  Biblical scholars have long used the criterion of multiple attestation to determine which miracles Jesus can be said to have performed.  Historians are always more confident of an event when they have multiple sources verifying its occurence.  While the principle of verifying an event can be found throughout human history, the qualifications or criteria for verification generally conform to the social norms and legal standards of the society in question.  

  1. Opinion Of Title

    A legal opinion attesting to the validity of the title deed to ...
  2. X-Mark Signature

    An X-mark made by a person in lieu of a signature. Due to illiteracy ...
  3. Probate

    A probate is the legal process in which a will is reviewed to ...
  4. Probate Court

    The segment of the judicial system primarily charged with handling ...
  5. Will

    A legally enforceable declaration of how a person wishes his ...
  6. Testamentary Will

    A testamentary will is a traditional will, sometimes referred ...
Related Articles
  1. Managing Wealth

    The Executor's Checklist: 7 Things To Do Before They Die

    Being an executor comes with a lot of responsibility, and these tips will reduce the complications that can come with the job.
  2. Small Business

    How to fill out an I-9 form (step-by-step)

    Step-by-step, here's how you and the employee you've hired fill out the required I-9 verification form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  3. Personal Finance

    Do Retirement Accounts Go Through Probate?

    It's tough when retirement accounts have go through probate, tying up those funds after death. Here is how you can prevent that from happening.
  4. Retirement

    4 Estate Planning Documents You Need to Have

    Here's the lowdown on the four essential legal documents you need – right now – to have in place before you die.
  5. Retirement

    3 Secrets You Didn't Know About Estate Planning

    Three estate planning secrets every advisor and saver needs to know.
  6. Personal Finance

    Why Your Will Needs a 'Titanic Clause'

    If you don't have a Titanic clause in your will and disaster strikes, there's no guarantee that your intended beneficiaries will inherit your assets.
  7. Tech

    Get Approved for a Mortgage in an Hour

    The traditional mortgage approval process takes 2-4 weeks, but tech companies have reduced the time to get approved for a mortgage to less than one hour.
  8. Personal Finance

    The CPA Exam: What You Need to Know

    Interested in becoming a certified public accountant? What you need to know for the CPA exam.
  1. When are beneficiaries of a will notified?

    Learn when the beneficiaries of a will must be notified, and understand how this requirement varies depending on whether ... Read Answer >>
  2. What Are the GAAP Standards for Digital Documents?

    Learn how Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 affects document storage requirements under GAAP. Read Answer >>
Trading Center