The process of probate ideally happens with a single, authoritative will that allocates assets in a way that cannot be easily challenged. But not every estate process is that simple. There is sometimes a lost or destroyed will. In those instances, Washington state law provides for a procedure that can still express the deceased’s wishes in the probate process.
Process of proving lost or destroyed will
A lost or destroyed will can cause numerous problems for the heirs. They are trying to clear probate and make the estate as simple and straightforward as possible. They do not want to juggle competing wills or have a judge decide how assets should be allocated. One of the purposes of estate administration is to lessen those burdens. As a result, the lack of a will leads to other steps that must be taken.
A lost or destroyed will can still have legal relevance. However, it has to be reinforced in a number of different ways. A lost or destroyed will can be granted legal authority if there is a copy that can be found. It may also be reinforced by the testimony of witnesses and evidence that the will was properly executed. The clerk would decide if this evidence shows that the lost or destroyed will was still the intention of the deceased. They may require a hearing and their decision could be challenged.
What to do
One essential step to reducing the effort necessary if there is a lost or destroyed will is to always make copies of a will. These copies should be placed in multiple locations and registered with all relevant authorities. In addition, the person making out the will should make it clear to multiple people that the will represents their intentions and that they do not want to change their mind.