A witness is a neutral third party who is present to watch signers execute a legal document. Witnesses cannot benefit from the transaction in any way or be related to one of the parties. For instance, a beneficiary cannot witness a Will where they are inheriting assets.
Witnesses ensure that the document was signed by both parties and no forgery took place. Having someone there to attest to this can be valuable if there is ever a dispute regarding the parties or the transaction.
Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind when witnessing the document’s execution, have a valid government issued identification, and must not be related to either the principal (signer) or a party to the transaction that is being notarized. They do not have to understand or know what is in the document in order to be a valid witness.