Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Your last will and testament is an important estate planning document that lists how you want all of your property and assets distributed after you pass away. The document also names an executor, the person you choose to handle the distribution of your estate, and may also name a guardian for your minor children. Although not every state recognizes holographic, or handwritten, wills, Washington state is among those that does. Whether your will is typed or holographic, there are certain requirements that you must meet for it to be valid.

People signing documents

To create a will in Washington, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Be mentally competent
  • Be able to understand the contents of the will
  • Create the document of your own free will, not under influence or pressure to do so

Naming Beneficiaries

The main purpose of your will is to distribute your property according to your wishes. Washington state requires that you clearly identify all of your beneficiaries by name or by their relation to you. For example, you could state, "To my wife, I leave my yacht." Beneficiaries can be people, businesses, charities, or other organizations. If you create a holographic will and the court cannot read your handwriting in any part, it's up to the probate court to decide what your intentions were when you wrote the will and apply those.

Executing Your Will

Once you have written your will, it must be executed, or signed, which makes it legally binding. If you are unable to sign it yourself, you should have someone sign it at your direction and in front of you. In that situation, you must make a mark, such as an "X", indicating you were present and approved the signing. If you cannot make a mark, the person signing for you must write their name and address after their signature with a written statement that they executed the will at the direction of the testator, or person making the will. The signature on the will must be dated.

Witnessing the Will

In Washington state, a will must be witnessed by having two mentally competent adults present for its signing. The witnesses do not need to be uninterested parties, meaning it's acceptable if they are beneficiaries listed in the will. However, even though this is technically allowed, it is best to use uninterested witnesses so there can be no question of the will's validity and the lack of undue influence.

The witnesses are not required to read the will or understand its contents. They only need to see you or the person acting on your behalf sign it, after which they must sign their own names. If your handwritten will does not have any witnesses but was created according to the laws of another state of which you were a resident at the time you created it, it will be accepted as valid in the state of Washington as long as it meets all of the requirements for a valid will in that other state.

If you are a Washington resident, you want to be sure your will fulfills all the state requirements. For help creating your will, consider using an online service provider to ensure that your document meets all the criteria and is legally valid.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.