Kent, WA asked in Probate for Washington

Q: If a holographic will was created and notarized in Alaska. The person dies in Colorado. Where is probate to be filed?

The executer lives in Washington state. Can the will be filled as a simple probate in Washington state?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Greg Freeze
Greg Freeze
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Port Townsend, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: Your question is registered on Justia in Washington, so you're likely to get Washington lawyers answering it. To start with, we have to back up to Alaska and find out if a holographic will is valid.

I see Alaska Stat. § 13.12.502 as allowing holographic wills, a will can be "...valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and material portions of the document are in the testator's handwriting. That's good.

So, now on to Colorado. Colorado has statutes talking about wills being "valid as a holographic will." Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502. So that's good.

But now, you wanted the personal representative to do the work in Washington, instead of Colorado. Okay, the magic word is "jurisdiction." We have to see if the Washington courts could have jurisdiction over a nonresident. I'm assuming that the decedent was a nonresident. But, here is the statute.

"(1) The superior court of every county has original subject matter jurisdiction over the probate of wills and the administration of estates of incapacitated, missing, and deceased individuals in all instances, including without limitation:

(a) When a resident of the state dies;

(b) When a nonresident of the state dies in the state; or

(c) When a nonresident of the state dies outside the state."

RCW § 11.96A.040

I'll have to check my "set theory" from math, but that sounds like it lets in the world. I don't see any Washington cases where the nonresident issue (that's little-c above) came up. Of course, with objections, a personal representative could "lose" the jurisdiction in Washington to a more convenient forum (e.g., Colorado).

If I was filing a case like this, I would want to get an agreement of all the beneficiaries when starting the Petition for Probate.

I do have to tell you that I was surprised that Washington would allow jurisdiction. I'm licensed along the coast in California, Oregon, and Washington, and this just hasn't come up as a question for me in the past.

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