In the event of the death of a person who has a will in Washington State, the validity of the will may have to be proven in order for assets to be distributed as directed by the will as part of the probate process. The following provides insight on how to prove a will is valid Washington State and how a probate and estate attorney can be of assistance.

Testator’s Age and Mental State

The first aspect of a determining the validity of the will is ensuring that the testator (the term used for referring to the person who creates a will) was of a proper age at the time of the will’s creation. Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 11.12.010, a testator must be at least 18 years of age in order to create a valid will. The same statute also requires that the testator be “of sound mind” when creating a will, referring to the testator’s ability to understand the purpose and intent of the will and the nature of the estate.  Sometimes the question of a person’s mental state is discussed in terms of “competency” and whether or not the person has sufficient capacity.

Witnesses of a Will’s Signing

In addition to the signature of the testator, a will is not considered valid unless two or more witnesses have signed it. Washington law states that the two or more witnesses must be “competent.”

What about nuncupative wills?

A nuncupative will is a will that is not made in writing but is instead verbally given, usually immediately preceding a person’s death. As such, nuncupative wills are often referred to as “deathbed wills” and are usually considered invalid if made by a civilian or if they contradict an already-existing will. However, the Revised Code of Washington Section 11.12.025 explicitly states that members of the armed forces of the United States or persons who are employed on a vessel of the United States merchant marines are allowed to make a nuncupative will disposing of their personal property, as long as the property to be disposed of does not exceed $1,000 and does not include any real estate. The nuncupative will must be made in the presence of two witnesses to be considered valid, and the witnesses must attest that the testator made the nuncupative will at a time of severe/last sickness. Additionally, a nuncupative will is not considered valid unless it is presented to the court within six months of being heard by the witnesses. Any widows or heirs of the deceased have the right to contest a nuncupative will.

Validity of Foreign Wills

All wills that meet the criteria named above – that a testator was at least age 18 when making a will, that the testator was of a sound mind at the time of the will’s creation and that at least two witnesses have signed a will as a testament to its validity – will be considered valid under Washington state law, regardless of where the will was created.

Can a probate and estate attorney help me?

During the probate process – which is the process of dividing up the estate, paying debts, and distributing assets in the event of a death – the validity of a will may be brought into question. If you have questions about the validity of a will, how a will may affect the probate process, or what will happen in the event that a will was created prior to a marriage or children, leaving out certain beneficiaries, the attorneys at the Deno Millikin Law Firm, PLLC, can answer all of the above and more. To schedule your first meeting with us today, call our offices now at 425-292-5233.