When a person dies, they either die with a will or without a will. A valid last will and testament is a legal declaration made by a person in anticipation of death. It provides for how their property will be distributed upon their death, and who will distribute it. If they die without a will, their estate is distributed in accordance with the laws of intestate succession.

Death need not be imminent. A person can make a will at age 25 and die at age 75. They can also make a will on Monday and die on Friday. In either case, the will can be valid and enforceable. It’s the circumstances surrounding the making of the will that either make it a valid and legal will, or just some pieces of paper stapled together.

Washington has its own requirements for a valid will. The person making the will must be at least 18-years-old, of sound mind, and the will must be in writing. A typed or printed will is sufficient for this requirement. It must be signed by the person making it, or signed at their direction and request. Finally, two people who saw the testator sign it must witness the testator’s signature. The witnesses must also see each other witness it. It’s preferable that the witnesses be disconnected from the distribution of the property in the will, but the will isn’t necessarily invalidated if a beneficiary witnesses it. A rebuttable presumption arises though that if a witness to a will takes under that will, the gift to that witness was induced by fraud, duress or undue influence. If the witness fails to rebut that presumption, the will still stands, but that distribution to the not so disconnected independent witness then passes by the laws of intestate succession.

A will can be changed by a codicil. A codicil can modify, add to or revoke part of a will. The same requirements apply to execution of a codicil as apply to a will.

Whether your parents executed a new will or a codicil to an existing will is irrelevant. When they executed it is also irrelevant so long as all requirements were complied with. If the will is unchallenged in court, it can then be automatically admitted, and the steps necessary for distribution can begin.

To speak to an attorney, contact the Law Office of Dan Kellogg today. Contact us online or by calling (425) 227-8700.