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What is a Will?

A will or last testament is a legal document that determines who your property will be distributed to when you pass. It also allows you to choose who will care for your minor children and name an executor or administrator to oversee the distribution of your property and assets. Not all of your assets can be controlled by a will (for instance, community property in a state that recognizes community property, property interests with a right of survivorship, and certain retirement and insurance benefits, etc.).

In Washington, a will, or last testamentary, is generally required to be in writing, signed by the person executing the will plus two witnesses, and to name who will receive what property. A notarized will is considered “self-proven,” meaning that witnesses will not need to testify to its authenticity in court for it to take effect. Although you are not required to consult a lawyer for your will to have legal effect, many aspects of property law are very complex (for example, disinheriting an estranged family member or donating a large sum to a specific charity) and should be addressed with the help of an estate planning lawyer. The last thing you want is to not be able to adequately care for your loved ones or create conflicts between your friends, relatives, and family members in the event something happens to you.

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