Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about Washington Wills
There are a couple of major differences between Washington Wills and other online forms providers. First, the instructions on Washington Wills are drafted by attorneys who are licensed to practice law in Washington State. That means we understand the nuances of Washington State's laws that apply to wills and related documents.
The second major difference is that we provide comprehensive explanations of the law and legal processes as they apply to a person who is using our instructions to write a document. The fact is that wills (even simple wills) and other estate plan documents are subject to a whole lot of laws and rules that the average person has never even heard of. We think anybody who is drafting a will in Washington State should know about these laws so they can make informed decisions.
You should not draft a will for someone else unless you have a license to practice law. Drafting a will for someone else, even for a family member, may be a crime where you live if you are not licensed to practice law.
For example, in Washington State it is a crime for a nonlawyer to practice law. See RCW 2.48.180 .
Anybody can use Washington Wills to learn about the law of wills and other estate-planning issues in Washington State. However, not everybody can use Washington Wills to write their own will. See the answer to the next question, below, about who should not use Washington Wills.
- You need your will completed quickly. Writing your own will using this website will take considerable time. If you need a will right away, you should immediately talk with a lawyer.
- You are not yet eighteen years old. Under Washington law, a person who is not yet eighteen years old cannot make a will.
- You suffer from any condition that might lead another person to reasonably question whether you are of sound mind. Under Washington law, a person who is not of sound mind cannot make a will. If you have any doubts about whether you are of sound mind, you should talk with a lawyer.
- You are drafting a will that will be finalized outside of the State of Washington.
- You want a will that does more than what a simple will can do. For more complex estate planning, you should talk with a lawyer.
- You are drafting a will for someone else and you are not licensed to practice law.
If you write your own simple will using the information on this website, it will probably take you many hours over several days. The choices you must make to write even a simple will are quite complex, and it will take some time to learn everything you need to know.
Here are a couple of facts that might help put this time commitment into perspective:
- It takes three years of law school, plus passing the bar exam, before a lawyer in Washington State is deemed qualified to write a will for you. Even so, it can take several additional years practicing for lawyers to get comfortable with, or even good at, drafting wills.
- A typical textbook for a law school course about wills is several inches thick and is filled with examples of court rulings from real cases in which somebody made a terrible mistake when trying to draft a will. It is important to take your time to make sure you understand each decision you make along the way.
No. If you are following our instructions, you need to be using our simple will template.
Our simple will template contains very specific language with important legal meaning, and we intend for you to leave that language in place. Other templates do not contain the same language. When we wrote the instructions on this site, we wrote them assuming that our carefully crafted language would be included in your simple will. If you try to use our instructions to help you fill out, complete, or edit a will template that you found somewhere else, then our assumptions will be wrong, and our instructions based on those assumptions will lead you astray. The consequences could be severe.
With that said, you should feel free to read the entries in our glossary. Glossary entries contain general information about the meanings of legal phrases in Washington State. They are not based on any assumptions by us about what kind of template you might be using.
Yes, you can contribute to support Washington Wills. We are very grateful for all the support we receive, which we use to continue providing and improving this website.
Common Questions about Wills
When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died "intestate." If a person without a will dies owning probate assets subject to distribution in Washington State, the assets will be distributed according to Washington State's laws of intestate distribution.
You can think of the intestacy laws as a very basic will that Washington State gives you for free. If you are happy with how your property will be distributed under the laws of intestate distribution, you may not need to make a will at all.
A will — whether a simple will or one that is more complex — is just one part of a complete estate plan. A person making a simple will should also consider preparing other basic estate plan documents, including durable powers of attorney for financial and health care matters, as well as a health care directive.
There are two common reasons to make a new will. The first reason is when you change your mind about some aspect of your will and want to rewrite it. The second reason is when some major circumstance in your life has changed, and the will needs to be updated to account for the change. Examples of changed circumstances that might make it appropriate to rewrite your will include:
- Your marriage, divorce, or separation from your spouse.
- A new family member, by birth or adoption.
- The death of a family member or of any person named in your will.
- Moving to a different state or a different country.
- The purchase or sale of a home or other significant asset.
- Your wealth increasing, putting your estate at risk of owing estate tax.
Another very good reason to make a new will is if your old will is lost or accidentally destroyed.
It is easy to make your will and then just forget about it for many years, even though your circumstances have changed. It is a good idea to remind yourself to consider rewriting your will at least every five years.
I wrote out my wishes about who should get my property when I die on a piece of paper and signed it. Isn't that good enough?
No. It is a common (but incorrect) belief that you can make a will in Washington State simply by writing out a statement of your wishes and signing it. Your written and signed statement is not a will because it fails to meet the minimum requirements for a valid will, which require (among other things) that a will be signed by and in the presence of two qualified witnesses. A court in Washington State will be obligated by law to ignore your invalid attempt at a will and instead distribute your property according to your most recent validly executed will (if you had one) or else under the laws of intestacy, which control distribution of property when a person dies without a will.
I don't really have a lot of property or money, but I do want to make sure my kids are cared for. Does a will do that?
A will — including a simple will — can be used to leave gifts to your children and to appoint a guardian for any of your minor children who don't have a surviving parent after you have passed away.