Requirements of a Will in Washington State

There are several sitcom bits based off of someone writing their own Last Will and Testament. One of my personal favorites is in the show Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson reveals the Will that he’s been carrying in his pocket since childhood, which reads “All my belongings shall transfer to the man or animal who has killed me.” Another character on the show points out that Ron’s slip of paper isn’t a “real Will”, and Ron goes on to create a valid Will later in that episode, but this scene begs the questions: why wasn’t Ron’s signed piece of paper a “real” Will?

While the “Will” was in writing, signed by Ron, and communicates his wishes, there are a number of legal problems with Ron’s “Will” that would invalidate it under Washington law. First off, Ron says that he created his Will when he was eight years old, which is ten years too early. Pursuant to RCW 11.12.010, in Washington State only persons who have reached the age of eighteen and are of sound mind may execute a Last Will.

The next big issue is that the document was not signed by two competent witnesses as required by RCW 11.12.020. For a Will to be considered “real” it must be signed by the Testator (who in this example is Ron) in the presence of two competent adults willing to sign the document as witnesses. The witness signatures serve to affirm that they saw the Testator sign the Will, and attest that the Testator was competent and not under duress. Therefore, in the event that the Will is challenged after the Testator’s death, the witnesses can recount whether the Testator understood what they were signing and whether the Testator was signing the document of their own free will.

Lastly, the most unconventional part of Ron’s “Will” is that it gave his entire estate to his killer, which is specifically prohibited by Washington’s slayer statute. RCW 11.84.020 states “No slayer or abuser shall in any way acquire any property or receive any benefit as the result of the death of the decedent.” Obviously, this statute completely frustrates the entirety of Ron’s Will as it prevents “the man or animal who has killed me” from inheriting his estate.

In summary, in Washington State a “real” Will must be in writing, signed by a Testator who is eighteen or older in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the Will, and (in case anyone is thinking of replicating Ron’s Will) it cannot name your killer as your heir.

To learn more about Requirements of a Will in Washington State, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

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