Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your property after your death. You can use your will to provide for your children, your spouse and family members when you are gone. LegalZoom lets you create a valid Washington will and assign someone (called the executor in most states) to administer your will after your death.
Basic requirements for a Washington last will and testament ("Will"):
Other types of recognized Wills:
- Age: The person making the Will (the "testator") must be at least 18 years old
- Capacity: The testator must be capable of reasoning and making decisions.
- Signature: The Will must be signed by the testator or by someone at his/her request and in his/her presence.
- Witnesses: At least two people (who are not receiving anything under the Will) who witness the signing or the acknowledgment of the signing of the Will must sign their names in the testator's presence and at his/her request.
- Writing: The Will must be in writing.
- Beneficiaries: The testator can use the Will to distribute property to anyone.
- Holographic Wills: Handwritten wills (also called "holographic wills") may be valid in Washington in certain cases. However, Washington law can be very particular about handwritten wills and it's usually a good idea to type them if you can.
Distribution of Property:
A Will is a document you can use to explain how you want your property to be distributed after your death. In general, Washington law lets you distribute your property however you want.
Other Functions of Wills:
A LegalZoom Washington Will lets you name the person who will be responsible for your minor children and their property, and the person who will be in charge of your property until probate is complete.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
- Jointly owned property with a right of survivorship goes directly to the surviving owner.
- Half of any community property goes to the surviving spouse or domestic partner. Washington law allows you to distribute your half of community property on your death as you wish under your Will, in trust, by intestacy as described below, or by a separate, written, notarized Community Property Agreement signed by both you and your spouse or domestic partner.
If your Will doesn't provide for a spouse or domestic partner whom you married or entered into a domestic partnership with after you signed your Will at all, he or she will be entitled to part of your property under Washington law, unless it is clear from the Will or other evidence that you intended to exclude your spouse in this way.
If your Will doesn't refer to your child who is born or adopted after you signed your Will at all, he or she will be entitled to part of your property under Washington law, unless it is clear from the Will or other evidence that you intended to exclude your child in this way.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
You can change your Will whenever you want.
This can be done through a codicil, which is a document that explains the additions or changes you want to make. Codicils must be signed and witnessed in the same way as wills. You can also make a new Will that states that the new Will revokes and takes precedence over any older wills.
Revoking a Will
You can revoke your Will (partly or completely):
Revoking your entire Will generally revokes the codicils to that Will as well, unless it is clear that it was not your intention.
- by a later Will or writing that revokes your earlier Will, either by saying so directly or because new terms are in conflict with the original terms;
- if you (or someone else at your request and in your presence) destroys it deliberately (i.e., intends to revoke it by destroying it) . If someone else does it, there must be two witnesses who confirm your intent to revoke it.
- automatically in part, if you get divorced or your domestic partnership is dissolved. All provisions in your Will relating to your former spouse or domestic partner will be terminated, unless your Will says otherwise. Note that if you get remarried to your former spouse, or reregister your domestic partnership with your former domestic partner, those provisions become effective again.
Probate is a court-supervised process that helps transfer property as set forth in your Will. At the beginning of the process, a petition is filed with the court. After notice is given and a hearing is held, the Will enters probate and an executor is appointed. After your death, Washington procedures will work to show that your Will is valid, pay debts and taxes, and distribute property as designated in your Will.
A Washington Will will control the distribution of your property after your death. If you die without a valid Will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property not otherwise distributed will be distributed according to state law.
For example, if you die without a Washington Will, and you leave behind a spouse (but no children or other close relatives), your spouse will receive all of your estate. If you die leaving children (but no spouse) behind, your children will split your estate equally. Under these default rules, you will not have the opportunity to leave anything to your friends or to charity.
By writing your Washington Will, you can be sure that you (and not Washington's default laws) will decide how your estate will be distributed.