Washington Estate Planning - Will Requirements

Posted about 6 years ago. Applies to Washington, 3 helpful votes



Oral Wills

Washington recognizes oral, or nuncupative, wills to a limited extent. Members of the armed services may make oral wills to dispose of personalty. Anyone else may use an oral will to dispose of up to $1,000 worth of personalty. [RCW ?11.12.025] Washington also provides a simple procedure for the transfer of personalty of estates not exceeding $100,000 providing no application for probate has already been made. [RCW Ch. 11.62]


Admitting a Will from Another State

A will or codicil executed in another state in a manner recognized by the laws of either the state where executed or the state of the testator's domicile at the time of execution is admissible to probate in Washington. [RCW ?11.12.020] Washington does not recognize holographic wills, unattested wills that do not adhere to the statutory formalities. However, Washington will admit to probate holographic wills or codicils valid where executed.


Age & Signature

A testator must be at least 18 years old at the time of the will's execution. Unlike contracts, a will is not ratified by subsequent attainment of the age of majority. A testator has the requisite capacity to make a will if he understands the nature and effect of his act, measured at the time the will is executed. A will is properly signed if the testator, knowing the contents of the document, puts her signature or mark on the document with the intention of adopting the document as her will. Washington allows for proxy signatures if the proxy signs at the testator's direction, in the testator's presence and is identified on the document.



Two competent witnesses must attest a will. The witnesses do not have to attest the will in each other's presence but must attest it in the presence of the testator. Washington does not require publication of the will, meaning that the statute does not require the testator to disclose the witnesses are signing a will, only that each witness either watched the testator or proxy sign the will or received the testator's acknowledgement that that the instrument has been adopted by him as his act. At the hearing for admission of the will to probate, the two attesting witnesses must testify that each was present and witnessed the signature or received the proper acknowledgment; that they each signed the will in the testator's presence; and that they each believed the testator to be of sound mind at the time of signing. The potential death or forgetfulness of the witnesses by the time of admission to probate can be avoided by having the witnesses execute a self-proving affidavit.

Additional Resources

For more information see my Guide "A Beginner’s Guide to Asset Protection and Estate Planning for Washington Residents" at the link provided.

Frank Selden's Estate Planning Guide

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Codicil to will

A codicil to a will is a document that changes the terms in your current will, but does not revoke it. In most cases, codicils must be witnessed to be valid.

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