How to make a will in Washington

A guide to Washington probate laws.



Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in estate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.

Published July 27, 2020|2 min read

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Who can write a will in Washington?

Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” may write a will in Washington.

What are the requirements for witnessing a will in Washington?

Every will must be signed by two witnesses.

Can witnesses be beneficiaries of the will in Washington?

They can, but unless there are two disinterested witnesses, they may have to forfeit part or all their inheritance if they had undue influence on the testator or committed fraud.

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What are the requirements for nominating an executor in Washington?

  • Age of executor: At least 18 years old, which is the age of majority in Washington

  • Cannot be convicted of felony or crime of “moral turpitude”

  • Out-of-state executors are allowed but may need an in-state resident to act as a processing agent

  • Trust companies acting as corporate executors must not accept compensation for duties

  • A limited liability companies or partnership may act as representative only if “shareholders, members, or partners, respectively, are exclusively attorneys”

Can you create a holographic will in Washington?

In Washington, handwritten wills are only valid if they are properly witnessed.

However, holographic wills that are properly executed and made in another state that allows for them can be valid in Washington.

Is Washington a community property state?

Yes, Washington is a community property state.

In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property as is an inheritance.

Laws of intestacy in Washington

In Washington, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the intestate estate based on the laws of intestate succession.

The surviving spouse will receive the community property. This is how much of the separate property they would receive in a few different circumstances:

If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:Surviving spouse's share of separate property
No children, parents or siblingsEverything
Children1/2 of the separate property
No children, but parents or siblings3/4 of the separate property

Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along to next of kin in the following order:

  • Children

  • Parents

  • Siblings or their children (nieces/nephews)

  • Grandparents

  • Aunts/uncles or their children (cousins)

For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children by a per stirpes designation.

Filing the will in Washington

After the testator dies, the executor must file the will at the superior court in the county where the decedent lived within 40 days of knowledge of the testator’s death.

Estate administration without probate in Washington

In Washington, an estate can be administered without formal probate. For this to happen, a named executor in a will must petition the court. If there was no will, then a surviving spouse or domestic partner can petition the court, but only if the decedent had no children and left only community property.

Additionally, a small estate affidavit can be used to distribute a decedent’s personal property when:

  • At least 40 days have passed since the decedent’s death

  • The gross value of the estate falls below $100,000 (excluding community property)

  • No one has petitioned for letters testamentary

  • All debts and funeral expenses have been paid