A guide to Washington probate laws.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” may write a will in Washington.
Every will must be signed by two witnesses.
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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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”
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 Pennsylvania.
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.
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 siblings||Everything|
|Children||1/2 of the separate property|
|No children, but parents or siblings||3/4 of the separate property|
Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along in the following order:
Siblings or their children (nieces/nephews)
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.
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.
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
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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 esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.
Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.
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