How Will My Loved Ones Access My Will When I Die?
Updated: Jan 28
This is a question I frequently get from clients almost immediately after signing. There are a couple things to do after signing your will.
Make sure it is signed correctly. In Washington state, it must be signed by 2 disinterested witnesses (those who do not stand to inherit under the will). It is sound practice to also execute a self-proving will affidavit. This is an affidavit signed by the 2 witnesses and notarized that establishes the validity (self proves) the will it accompanies. Staple this to the will.
Safeguard the original. Photo copies of wills are not sufficient replacements. If you cannot produce the original will after death, the decedent will be deemed to have died intestate (i.e., without a will). Keep in it a safe place such as safe, safe deposit box, your attorney's office, or consider filing it with the court's office in advance. In King County, individuals may file their wills to be safeguarded by the clerk and kept in its will repository for a fee of $20. Instructions for doing so can be found here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/clerk/documents/will-repository.aspx.
Give loved ones and/or those nominated as legal guardian or executor advance notice that you have drafted a will. Provide them instructions on where it is kept and how to access it upon your death. If the proposed executor or guardian will not necessarily be the first to learn of your death (live out of town), also be sure to inform those closest to you who will know of your passing almost immediately (e.g., your co-worker, neighbor, etc.).