What Is Not a Will in Washington?

Traditionally, there are three types of Wills:

  1. Attested Wills: Written and witnessed Wills — what comes to most people’s minds when they think of a Will — and what is generally required for a valid Will in Washington.
  2. Holographic Wills: Handwritten AND unwitnessed Wills.

    Caution:  The “problem” with a holographic Will is NOT that it is handwritten, but that it is unwitnessed.  A Will that is written in the hand of the Testator should be valid in Washington AS LONG AS IT IS WITNESSED.

    Holographic Wills made in Washington by Washington residents are NOT valid in Washington.  Estate of Brown, 101 Wash. 314 (1918).

    Exception: A holographic Will that is valid in the state of the Testator’s residence is valid in Washington.  Estate of Wegley, 65 W.2d 689 (1965) — Authority: Full faith & credit clause of the Federal Constitution.  So, for example, holographic Wills are valid in California.  Calif. Prob. Code § 6111(a)   So if a California resident has made a holographic Will in California and thereafter moves to and becomes a resident of Washington, the holographic Will made in and while a resident of California should be valid in Washington.  Estate of Wegley, 65 Wn.2d 689 (1965).

    A transaction that is remarkably similar to the making of a Nuncupative Will is a Gift Causa Mortis.

  3. Nuncupative Wills: Oral Wills that are:
    • Spoken to one or more witnesses,
    • In contemplation of death, and
    • Usually limited to those at war or under similar circumstances.

Nuncupative Wills made in Washington are valid in Washington so long as they are spoken by the Testator during his/her last illness to at least two witnesses and satisfy a number of other formal requirements.  RCW 11.12.025  Nuncupative Wills in Washington, however, are valid only for:

  • A member of the U.S. armed forces, as regards his/her wages or personal property,
  • A person employed on a vessel of the U.S. merchant marine, as regards his/her wages or personal property, or
  • Any other person competent to make a Will, as regards his/her personal property not exceeding $1,000 in value.


  • General Rule:  Only attested (ie, witnessed) Wills are valid in Washington.
  • Exception for “Foreign” Wills:  A Will that is executed outside of Washington is valid in Washington if it is valid according to the law of the jurisdiction where either:
    • The Will was executed, or
    • The Testator was domiciled, either when the Will was executed or when the Testator died.  RCW 11.12.020(1)  Estate of Wegley, 65 Wn.2d 689 (1965) [OR Testator left holographic Will valid in OR; Held: Holographic Will valid in WA.]

For purposes of this website, all references to a Will other than on this page will be to a standard, traditional, Attested Will.