Many people move out to the Pacific Northwest looking for a change in pace to advance their careers or retire. While many new residents plan for many things, revisiting their estate plan that they originally drafted in another state usually isn’t one of them — although it should be.
Each jurisdiction had its definition as to what constitutes a valid will. What might be a legally binding will in one state might not be in the next. You must understand why that’s the case.
Why wills in one state aren’t often valid in another
A probate judge here in Washington state may consider the will that you drafted in another state as valid, provided that you followed the appropriate formalities when executing this legal document in your previous state — although not if the rules in that state about what makes a valid will are the same.
For your will to be valid in Washington state, you may simply have to re-do it.
For example, Washington doesn’t recognize handwritten or holographic wills signed by the testator alone. This state’s law requires a testator and at least two uninterested witnesses to sign the will for it to be valid. The state requires testators to follow that same process every time they update their will, as well. If you came from a state that permitted holographic wills or allowed you to sign a will without two disinterested witnesses, that wouldn’t be considered valid here.
Ensuring your will is valid in Washington
The difference in state laws is often subtle. You may find it helpful to consult with an attorney to understand what requirements you must meet to have a valid will in Washington. You can then update your will to ensure that your final wishes prevail once you pass away.