What type of will do I need?

Updated: Apr 21

Electronic Wills

E-wills (electronic wills) are entirely written online, from start to finish. Electronic signatures replace wet signatures, so there is no need for a hard copy. A digital will can be created, stored, and transmitted online since it is a digital document.

The Washington Uniform Electronic Wills Act now allows Washington residents to digitally execute wills. Under previous Washington law, a Washington will had to be a paper document signed by the testator in the physical presence of two witnesses.

Mirror Wills

Mirror wills, also known as reciprocal wills, refer to wills created jointly by two individuals (usually spouses, domestic partners, or significant others) and that are essentially identical in terms. Mirror wills typically:

  • appoint the other testator as the personal representative;

  • appoint the same alternate personal representatives in case both testators die simultaneously;

  • leave all of the testator’s property to the other testator and name the same contingent beneficiaries in case both testators die simultaneously; and

  • appoint the same guardians and custodians for any minor children the testators have in common.

The important thing to remember about mirror wills that are not also mutual wills is that after the first testator dies, the surviving testator can revoke the mirror will and rewrite a completely new will against the wishes of the deceased testator.

Joint Wills

An executed joint will is the result of combining the wishes of two testators. In

Washington State, joint wills are legally permitted, and have their own pros and cons. It may be easier for spouses to make a joint will since they need only keep track of their wishes on one document. However, when two testators have joined their wills into a single document, it may raise the question as to whether they intended to permanently bind themselves to the terms of the document. For this reason, if you have a complicated estate then a mirror or mutual will may be a better option.

Mutual Wills

A mutual will specifies how the property of two testators will be distributed after they die according to an agreement between them. As joint wills, the agreement and the wills may be combined into one document. A survivor who elects to take property under the provisions of a mutual will is obligated to honor the disposition of that property, as specified in that mutual will.

Specifically, if you and another person intend to make mutual wills, special care should be taken to ensure that your shared intentions are clearly expressed in the wills to reduce the likelihood that litigation will be necessary to enforce your wishes.

As always, speak with an attorney before drafting your will.