Seattle Will Attorney
Full-service Estate Planning Throughout Washington State
One of the best things you can do for your loved ones is to have a will. Your will:
- Helps ensure that your property passes to the people you want to provide for after your passing
- Puts the management and distribution of those assets in the hands of someone you trust
- Tells the court who you want to care for your children if you pass away before they reach adulthood
Everyone wants to provide these protections for their families and others they care about. So, it may come as a surprise that most U.S. adults don’t have wills. Some of the reasons people delay creating a will include:
- Believing they have plenty of time to write a will
- Thinking they don’t have enough assets to need a will
- Trusting that their property will automatically pass to the people they would choose
The truth is that most adults should have a will. While most of us can expect to live into our 70s or beyond, that’s not guaranteed to any of us. Virtually everyone has some property to be distributed or disposed of. The Washington state law that directs how property is disputed when there is no will is complicated, and may have surprising results. In other words, those assumptions aren’t always accurate.
Many people also delay writing a will because they expect the process to be complicated and expensive. Fortunately, that’s also not necessarily true. At Harbor Law Firm, we’ve developed a fully remote estate planning process that makes it simple for people anywhere in the state of Washington to get knowledgeable guidance and preparation of estate planning documents. We offer phone and video appointments outside regular business hours, and work on a flat-rate basis so you’ll always know the full cost of our services before we get started.
What is Required for a Will?
Your will (also known as a “last will and testament”) is a legal document. Washington law sets forth very specific requirements for a will to be valid.
Who Can Write a Will?
Generally, anyone in Washington can execute a valid will, as long as that person:
- Is at least 18 years of age, and
- Has the necessary mental capacity to execute legal documents
Does a Will Have to be in a Specific Format?
In Washington, a will must be in writing. While a handwritten will may be valid, in Washington a will written in the testator’s own hand doesn’t get any special consideration. That means that whether a will is handwritten, typed, or computer-generated, it must be properly executed.
Proper execution of a Washington will requires that the testator sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. Those witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator. In addition to this attestation, Harbor Law Firm provides a declaration page, which is signed under penalty of perjury. However, a will accompanied by a properly executed declaration page is considered “self-proving.” That means the witnesses won’t have to appear in court to testify to the validity of the will.
Sometimes, many years pass between the execution of a will and the time it is submitted to probate. If witnesses have moved out of state or fallen out of touch with the family, securing their testimony may be difficult. If the witnesses weren’t known to the personal representative or family members, or have passed away, the obstacles may be more serious. The declaration page generally makes proving the validity of the will simpler, smoother, and less expensive.
Simple mistakes in the process can invalidate a will, and the issues may not be discovered until it’s too late.
Updating or Revoking a Will
You’ll want to review your will periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes. In particular, you’ll want to revisit your will if a significant life change occurs, such as:
- Marriage or divorce
- The birth or adoption of a child
- The death of a beneficiary
A change in circumstances of a beneficiary may trigger a review of your will, too. For example, if a beneficiary becomes disabled and dependent on public benefits, a direct inheritance may do more harm than good, and you may need to explore other ways to provide for that person.
There are two ways to change your will in Washington: execute a codicil, or execute a replacement will. A codicil is a separate document amending the existing will, which must be executed in the same way a will would. Generally, a replacement will is a better option. Since the legal requirements for a codicil are the same as those for a will, it’s typically just as easy to create a new will. And, creating a fresh will ensures that all of the relevant information is in one place, that there is no potential for apparent conflicts between the documents, and that the provisions of the will and codicil don’t get separated.
You can also revoke your existing will without replacing it. The impact of revoking a will differs depending on whether or not there is a prior existing will.
A will may be revoked by:
- Execution of a new will that explicitly revokes the prior will
- Execution of a new will that is inconsistent with the prior will
- Physical destruction of the will by the testator with the intent to revoke the will
Work With an Experienced Wills and Estates Lawyer
Many people put off making a will because they expect the process to be too complicated and expensive. Others attempt to cover their basis on their own, either by writing out instructions or downloading and filling out forms. Unfortunately, these efforts are often ineffective, and sometimes even harmful.
When you’re planning for the future security of your family, it’s in your best interest to have knowledgeable guidance every step of the way. That doesn’t have to be painful or prohibitively expensive.
At Harbor Law Firm, we make estate planning as simple and stress-free as possible. That means:
- Knowledgeable guidance customized to your circumstances and your goals
- A fully remote process that never requires you to leave home
- Early morning, evening, and weekend hours to fit your schedule
- An adaptable process for exchanging documents and collaborating
- Flat-rate pricing that ensures you’ll never be surprised by a legal bill
We also offer free consultations. Schedule yours right now.
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