Can a beneficiary of a will also be a witness to the will?

Yes, but it wise to choose witnesses who are not beneficiaries under the will. Traditionally, the beneficiary of a will could not be a witness. Now, however, West Virginia law has a purging statute. This law allows beneficiaries to be witnesses so long as they forfeit their share of the will. Basically, the statute means that if a beneficiary is a witness, the will is still good and all the other heirs will take their shares according to the will. However, if the witness who is also a beneficiary is needed to prove the will, the beneficiary must forfeit his or her inheritance under the will for the will to still be valid. 

Before property can pass according to a will, the will must be proven at the probate of the estate. To prove a will, a court must determine whether the will meets the requirements set by law. When a witness signs a will, he or she is agreeing to come back later and testify at the proving of the will. But a witness cannot testify to the validity of a will if he/she is incompetent. A witness is incompetent if the law does not allow him/her to be a witness. A witness who is also a beneficiary is competent only if he/she forfeits his/her inheritance in the will. Modern wills typically include a self-proving affidavit attached to the will signed by the witnesses so neither is required to come back and testify at the time of probate.  

While at least two witnesses have to sign the will, only one is necessary to prove the will. Consequently, a beneficiary who is a witness would have to forfeit his inheritance only if the other witness cannot prove the will. Thus, it is possible to have a valid will with a beneficiary as a witness, but it is wise to avoid using beneficiaries as witnesses in order to escape any problems. 

For more information, see: W. Va. Code §§ 41-1-3, 41-2-1 (2015); Webb v. Dye, 18 W. Va. 376 (1881); Davis v. Davis, 43 W. Va. 300, 27 S.E. 323 (1897).