What Is a Super-Will?

Washington has a "super-Will" statute that allows a testator to make provisions in his Will that govern the beneficiaries of nonprobate assets as well as probate assets.  Previously-designated beneficiaries of nonprobate assets may be overridden by the provisions naming beneficiaries in the testator's Will, if that Will expressly disposes of all or some of the nonprobate assets of the testator.  RCW 11.11.020.  Subsequently-designated beneficiaries of nonprobate assets are not affected by an earlier "super-Will" of the testator.

To effect control of a nonprobate asset upon the death of a testator with a super-Will, a personal representative must notify the financial institutions holding nonprobate assets, the nonprobate beneficiaries, the testamentary beneficiaries, and on the personal representative in the form provided in the statute (RCW 11.11.050), by personal service or service by certified mail, return receipt requested, with declaration of mailing filed in the probate action.  Absent such notice, the financial institution holding the nonprobate asset may rely conclusively on the form of the nonprobate asset and its beneficiary designations.  RCW 11.11.040.

If a nonprobate beneficiary receives a nonprobate asset to which he is not entitled because of the testator's super-Will provisions, the testamentary beneficiary or personal representative may petition the court, under RCW 11.96A, for control of the asset, provided such petition is brought within the earlier of 1) six months after admission of the Will to probate, or 2) one year after the decedent's death.  RCW 11.11.070 (Please note that the statute says the earlier of  "within six months of admission" and "within one year of decedent's death".  It is unclear what this might mean, so I have interpreted the "and" as an "or").  Where a financial institution holding a nonprobate asset is aware of a dispute contesting right to the nonprobate funds, the financial institution may hold the nonprobate asset until it receives an agreed consent of all nonprobate and testamentary beneficiaries.  RCW 11.11.100.  The financial institution may require a bond from the person to whom it makes transfer of the nonprobate asset in twice the amount of the asset's value.  RCW 11.11.110.